Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Here's a passage (more or less taken randomly) from the American Standard Version of the Bible from 1901:

1 Peter 3:14 (ASV)
14 But even if ye should suffer for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled;

The bolded words are the grammatical form I'm asking about. It's extremely common in the older translations of the Bible, which make them difficult to read. These days, I think most people would say "do not fear their fear" of "don't be afraid of their fear" instead. In fact, a 1995 update reads:

1 Peter 3:14 (NASB)
14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,

(There's a footnote on"intimidation" saying "Lit fear", so my first update matches exactly.)

Reading up on Early Modern English I haven't been able to discover a name for this word ordering or any history about the change. Can y'all give me some pointers?


I'm not sure if this part of the question is on-topic, but when I find this form would I be safe in mechanically changing it from:

verb not

to

do not verb

Are there instances that will break the meaning by doing this?

share|improve this question
    
    
@Matt: Not! (Which is to say, that question helpeth me not.) –  Jon Ericson Feb 9 '12 at 23:16
    
If anyone is interested, I posted a question on the Biblical Hermeneutics site about the project that prompts this question. –  Jon Ericson Feb 10 '12 at 1:39
add comment

6 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The syntax of "N V not" ("I know not") in English is called simple negation. It was much more common in Early Modern English.

The negation pattern that is more commonly used now, "N do not V" ("I don't know") is called just plain negation (it is the unmarked (expected) form).

share|improve this answer
3  
To add to your second paragraph: "N do not V" is said to exhibit do-support. –  ruakh Feb 10 '12 at 2:43
    
Right. Negative placement requires that negation occur after the first auxiliary verb. Whether there's an auxiliary verb in the clause or not. So you have to go out and get an auxiliary verb, and the one you get is do. This is called do-support, as ruakh points out. –  John Lawler Feb 10 '12 at 3:00
add comment

I'd say the device of putting "not" after a verb in order to negate it is simply negation. It's no different to putting un-, in-, dis- before the verb, and I doubt linguists or grammarians have special different words for each particular method.

Lately, as I'm sure most will know and many will be annoyed by, there's a trend to put "not" at the end of an entire sentence to negate it...

I think this is a really interesting question - not.

I've no idea how to punctuate that, as it seems to be primarily a spoken form.

share|improve this answer
    
You are probably right about there not being a name for the word order. –  Jon Ericson Feb 9 '12 at 23:38
    
@Jon Ericson: I'm pretty sure there is an obscure literary term for transposing normal word order for rhetorical/poetic effect, but if I couldn't be bothered to remember it in college many decades ago, I can't be bothered to google it now. OP might call foul, on the grounds that it covers all such transpositions, and he wants a special one for putting not after the verb instead of do not before it (in imperative commands only! :) –  FumbleFingers Feb 9 '12 at 23:47
    
I had the devil of a time getting anything useful from Google without first knowing the name of what I'm searching for. (My primary reason for asking was to get some traction on searching for more information by having some sort of search term, however imperfect. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Feb 10 '12 at 0:21
1  
@Jon Ericson: Soz for being snarky. I hadn't noticed you were the OP, obviously, but I also hadn't realised you were asking about the history of verb+not. I don't think there's much in that to be honest though - my guess is that trailing not probably originally functioned pretty much like a Latin suffix/inflection, that has now become archaic because we've evolved a better way to express the negation earlier. It's always better to get the important things in first, and the fact of negation is usually pretty important in any utterance (unless you're Wayne, saying nothing important! :) –  FumbleFingers Feb 10 '12 at 0:40
2  
@Gnawme,Jon: Warming to my theme of why the negation marker "moves leftward" (spoken earlier, so it's easier to know straight off you're dealing with negation instead of having to "semantically backpedal" when it finally arrives), I suppose we should expect the currently "pidgin" form "I not see the chicken" to eventually become standard English. –  FumbleFingers Feb 10 '12 at 1:05
show 3 more comments

The mechanical change from the verb+not form to do not+verb form that you ask about works ok for the vast majority of verb+not cases I've encountered. But some instances break. For example, "Imagine not being at home" typically is a suggestion or command meaning "Imagine what it would be like if you were not at home." That is somewhat different than the command "Do not imagine being at home."

This instance illustrates that slightly more context or information than verb+not is required; the example's form actually is verb+not+gerund and not modifies the gerund rather than the verb.

Note, although the mechanical change fails for many verb+not+gerund cases, it works ok for some. Example: "Fear not being sad" has exactly the same meaning as "Do not fear being sad", except on those occasions when it has the meaning "Be afraid of not being sad".

share|improve this answer
    
Excellent point. When you use the word "command" it makes me wonder if the question is about negating the imperative mood of the verb. (Wikipedia tells me that it's the prohibitive mood). –  Jon Ericson Feb 9 '12 at 23:52
    
When there are two verbs in a sentence, there are two clauses, and either can be negated, depending on the placement of the negative and the type of subordinate clause. –  John Lawler Mar 30 at 18:55
add comment

Poking around a bit (and reading jwpat7's answer), I think I'm asking about a change in the construction of the prohibitive mood. The affirmative command would be "fear" and according the chart on Wikipedia, the negation would be either "do not fear" or "you will not fear". In Early Modern English, the negation was "fear not". So that answers my "what is it called" question, I think.

I haven't yet found anything about the history of the change, however.

share|improve this answer
1  
See Do-support. The simple negative arose in late Old English by the operation of Jespersen's cycle. After do-support entered the language (according to some, by Welsh influence), it began to be specialised to negative, interrogative and emphatic uses. My theory of why do-negation ousted simple negation is that simple negation violated English's preference for Head-modifier order. –  Colin Fine Feb 10 '12 at 13:33
add comment

I don't know that there's a name for it. "Not" used to function as an adverb. Just as you could say "walk slowly", i.e. "slowly" is saying how you should walk, you could say "fear not", i.e. "not" is saying how you should fear, in this case, not at all. But in modern English we don't use "not" as an adverb any more, so you need the alternative construction "do not fear". (Or, of course, alternate wordings, like "don't be afraid of ...")

(Reminds me of a Sunday School play I once saw where the narrator read, "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid." And so the angel appears and the actors playing the shepherds scream in terror. Then the angel says, "Fear not!" But the shepherds continue to scream. So the angel cries, "What part of 'fear not' don't you understand?!")

share|improve this answer
1  
According to a dictionary "not" is still an adverb. (The definition reminded me that there was a slang usage that has thankfully died away. Not!) –  Jon Ericson Feb 9 '12 at 22:27
    
Sounds like you saw a production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It's one of my all time favorite books. I read it with my son every year. –  Jon Ericson Feb 9 '12 at 22:29
1  
Good point -- about still being an adverb I mean. In "do not fear" it's still functioning as an adverb, modifying "do". I need to rethink the theory behind my answer. It's still an adverb, but we've restricted the set of verbs that it's "allowed" to modify. –  Jay Feb 9 '12 at 22:35
2  
Not is no more an "adverb" than the is an "adjective". Not is a logical operator; it's usually found in English fused with an auxiliary of some sort. Negation has heavy-duty syntax and semantics. –  John Lawler Feb 9 '12 at 23:28
1  
Easily. It's just that there's something magical about learning the names of the POS and bestowing them. It's a mythological view of grammar, with Good and Bad, magic words (nominative case, future tense, pluperfect, perfect passive participle). But it's all just myths, with zombie rules. Real English syntax is very interesting, but it's hard to find. –  John Lawler Feb 10 '12 at 4:48
show 9 more comments

No you can't mechanically replace "verb not" with "do not verb". For example, "I know not to run with scissors" (which makes sense) would become "I do not know to run with scissors" (which doesn't really).

share|improve this answer
    
But 'not' here belongs to 'to run', not to 'know'. That is something completely different. –  RandomIdeaEnglish Feb 10 '12 at 18:15
    
Yes, but if you're mechanically changing it, as the OP suggests, then your mechanical device can't tell this. –  user16269 Feb 11 '12 at 2:58
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.