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Here comes a GRE question,

The reclusive clergyman may have lived and died in melancholy, but this doesn’t seem to have hampered his genius in any way. On the contrary, we find ourselves wondering whether his genius wasn’t (ii)_____ in some mysterious way by his mood.

Why is the ii "served"? I mean that if the ii blank is "served", the sentence must look like bellow to be logically reasonable.

On the contrary, we find ourselves wondering whether his genius was served in some mysterious way by his mood.

*it's supposed to be "was" instead of "wasn't" here.*

Thank you for your help~

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  • Why do you think that "wasn't" should change to "was"?? (It's not "whether not", it's "was not".) – Hot Licks Oct 1 '17 at 12:02
  • The original quote it's based on: "Burton’s genial masterpiece is also a good illustration of one of the more puzzling features of melancholy. That reclusive clergyman may have “lived and died in melancholy”, as his epitaph in Christ Church says, but, paradoxically, this doesn’t seem to have hampered his genius in any way. On the contrary, we may find ourselves wondering whether the good-natured gusto with which he gives himself up to his task, the ferment apparent on every page, isn’t connected in some mysterious way with the very nature of his theme." Also negative, but quite different. – Peter Shor Oct 1 '17 at 13:26
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The sentences I wondered whether his genius was governed by his mood and I wondered whether his genius wasn't governed by his mood say essentially the same thing. They are not opposites.

However the second uses the negative in order to emphasise what a remarkable proposition it would be, that someone's genius be governed by their mood. So remarkable that you wonder that it would be considered normal for it not to be the case.

Hence you might wonder if the intruder was not nine feet tall

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I think that the full expression of whether would be "whether or not" in which case there is no problem with the following verb being negative or positive.

Example : I wondered whether or not he was ill.

It seems to me that just using 'whether' on its own is a subtraction of proper English.

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