In English it's considered correct to ask

I do it like this, don't I?


Why can't I go?

whereas "don't" is an abbreviation of "do not" and "can't" is an abbreviation of "cannot". However, keeping the structure and no longer abbreviating the words, you get

I do it like this, do not I?

Which really doesn't make sense. Why is this?


3 Answers 3


I think the correct way to write it is

I do it like this, do I not?

  • But I mean, from that can I deduce that saying "don't I?" is incorrect? Or that the abbreviation "jumps over" the "I"? Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 20:29
  • 1
    Of course not. Just because expanding the abbreviation reorders the words, it doesn't mean that it's wrong. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 20:46
  • 1
    It's mainly because "I do it like this" is an affirmative sentence, while "do I not?" is an interrogative one. Therefore, in the latter, the auxiliary verb has to come first. Now try using the short form. The negation and the auxiliary are united, and the position they occupy is the one of the auxiliary. Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 21:51


I do it like this, do I not?


This doesn't quite answer your question, but...

In the 17th century several contracted negative verb forms came into use – among them don’t, won’t, shan’t, an’t (an ancestor of ain’t), han’t, wa’n’t – that are noticeable because their pronunciation differs rather markedly from that of the positive elements from which they were formed...

More at Merriam-Webster's dictionary of English usage

Apparently don't was the original contraction for all persons (we, you, I, they, etc.), and doesn't is a later form. So maybe it's not that odd that the expanded contraction "do not I" don't (ha ha) look right to us now.

Although, interestingly, a line from Jane Austen:

"I have always admired her complexion," replied Emma, archly; "but do not I remember the time when you found fault with her for being so pale?..."

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