Are the following sentences correct?

He seems not to want to help us


He seems want to help us.

Is it correct if I use "seem" in a negative sentence? Which role does "seem" play?

Is there any difference in meaning between:

  • It seems not working for me.
  • It doesn't seem work for me.
  • It seems not to be working.

Please tell me the differences between the three of them and in which situation I can use them.

  • Yes, seem can have a negative connotation. Do not use seem where its implication is not immediately obvious from context.
    – Kris
    May 3, 2014 at 4:59
  • @Josh61: I don't think my question is the same with that one.
    – PMay 1903
    May 3, 2014 at 5:18
  • For a correct usage of the verb to SEEM have a look here: dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/seem
    – user66974
    May 3, 2014 at 5:38

2 Answers 2


I don't think they are correct, close and understandable but not how a native English speaker would say it, I would say

  • "He seems to not want us to help" and
  • "He seems to want us to help"

negative questions are usually confusing so I'm not sure I can help you there.

  • "It seems to not be working for me"
  • "It doesn't seem to work for me" would be the same meaning.
  • "It seems to not be working" would also be the same though applied to 'it' not just you working 'it'.

I think the difference is perhaps when spoken rather than written sometimes people miss/slur ot half say things as there is a lot more context.

  • Your answer is excellent. I would say that the last bullet point: "It seems to not be working" would never actually be used. People would say, instead, "It doesn't seem to be working." Which is rephrased from your second to last bullet point. In other words, good job. May 3, 2014 at 5:51
  • Thank you very much. I appreciate all your help. As your answer, Could you please let me know which ones are more formal in writing and which ones are used in speaking?
    – PMay 1903
    May 3, 2014 at 6:23
  • Well they are all usable in written or spoken settings,but they seem rather clunky and passive particularly in a spoken setting. e.g. It seems to not be working, most people would be saying it's broken, or other slang :)
    – tarriel
    May 5, 2014 at 14:22

Technically speaking, the 'answer' is wrong: inserting a 'not' in between the 'to' and a verb in its infinitive form (i.e. 'to not want', 'to not be') is NEVER proper English; that's called a 'split infinitive'. The negation 'not' should go on one side or the other of the infinitive - immediately adjacent to it. Howvever, informally split infinitives are very common in usage...

  • 1
    Infinitives absolutely can be split in English. They can't in Latin, which is why some people think they shouldn't be split in English, but this is not the case.
    – Yossarian
    Nov 3, 2014 at 9:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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