It seems to me that the negation "[conjugated verb] + not" was used in parallel with "[conjugated "do"] + not + verb" in Early Modern English:

When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man : thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb. (Te Deum, 1549)

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1595)

And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more. (King James Bible, 1611)

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb. (O Come, All Ye Faithful, 1841)

Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. (Great Is Thy Faithfulness, 1923)

Even today, "be" still uses the former structure.

What is the evolution of these two forms of negation?

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    According to Do-Support in English: Historical Roots and Modern Usage - American University (pdf), as early as Old English, depending on the function of do. You will have to Google that title as I can't get a workable link. The paper includes a nice bibliography. May 12, 2017 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


The brief answer is:

The earliest attestation of do in negative sentences is circa 1400. This use arose, according to Visser (1969: 1529), "almost simultaneously" with the positive declarative, and was an optional form that coexisted with examples such as I went not. By about 1900, the forms with the negative after the main verb were illicit.
Markedness isomorphism as a goal of language change: The spread of periphrastic do in English

The long answer is that people have written entire papers on the origin and development of do-periphrasis and the specific type you're asking about. Here are some links:


Even today, "be" still uses the former structure.

From what I've read, the two are not considered to be the same thing. The only reason be can be used like this is because it's an auxiliary/copula. Auxiliaries/copulas can not have do-support in Standard English.

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