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Some popular examples:

Don't you know any better?

Now use that with out the contractions:

Do not you know any better?

Want to bet that many English speakers would find this weird or wrong sounding? The contraction-form is generally accepted by many by how it "sounds", but the non-contraction-form is deemed to be strange use. Furthermore:

Won't you come to bed?
Will not you come to bed?

Wasn't he lying?
Was not he lying?

Can't it be funny?
Can not it be funny?

Doesn't that offend?
Does not that offend?

Couldn't pigs fly?
Could not pigs fly?

People, I've heard at least, argue that it's wrong used this way (should be, "Could pigs not fly"), so why is it "right" in contraction-form and "wrong" in non-contraction-form?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, oerkelens, Robusto, Peter Shor , choster Jan 28 '15 at 0:13

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I do believe that technically "could not pigs fly" and "was not he lying" and so on are correct. They just don't sound quite right. I could be wrong about that, and I don't have enough time to research it right now, so I'll leave this as a starting point. – Jonathan Spirit Jan 27 '15 at 23:26
  • Even assuming they are wrong, why would contraction-form be right? Isn't that a contradiction? – Lady Gonads Jan 27 '15 at 23:27
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    No, those should no longer be analysed as contractions, or else you will make mistakes — as you have noticed. – tchrist Jan 27 '15 at 23:32
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    This got asked here last month. The answer is that the rule forming questions inverts the subject and the first auxiliary verb. Only. A contracted verb (e.g, isn't) counts as one auxiliary verb, and gets inverted as a unit. There is no rule that inverts not in addition to the auxiliary, so Does not that hurt? is simply ungrammatical. – John Lawler Jan 27 '15 at 23:35
  • @tchrist They are contractions. If mistakes are made from them, implications are that the mistake is in considering them to be contractions in the first place. – Lady Gonads Jan 27 '15 at 23:41
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All of these fine by me (British English)

Will you not come to bed?

Was he not lying?

Can it not be funny?

Does that not offend?

Could not pigs fly?

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