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I just overheard a conversation between two foreign students and one of them was complaining abot something like this: "I attend every single class while my classmates skip whole days and dare I not share my notes with them , I suddenely become the meanest person in the world."

I'm not sure if I caught it properly, but this dare I not thing got me thinking. Is this correct grammatically? Or how else would you put it? Thanks in advance! :)

marked as duplicate by AmE speaker, Laurel, choster, Davo, Nigel J Oct 28 '17 at 0:11

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  • I dare say there are a number of different senses of the word. What you quote is idiomatically archaic in the US, but grammatical. – Hot Licks Oct 27 '17 at 12:18
  • It is correct to use and dare I not share as an rewording, with the meaning of and if I dare to not share. – Davo Oct 27 '17 at 12:21
  • It is indeed correct, but for quite some speakers it may seem (slightly?) archaic. – oerkelens Oct 27 '17 at 12:25
  • See also a search of this site for 'dare i not' – AmE speaker Oct 27 '17 at 14:29

This sounds to contemporary ears like archaic English.

The usual way of expressing this would be

and if I dare to not share my notes with them, I suddenly become the meanest person in the world.

In Early Modern English grammar, you could use inversion instead of an if clause to create a counterfactual.

I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.

In contemporary English, this would be

I could not love you, dear, so much, if I didn't love honor more.

We still use inversion instead of if clauses for past tense modals and auxiliary verbs:

I could have borne the shade, had I not seen the sun.

We don't use inversion instead of if with present tense modals or non-counterfactual conditionals. So we don't say

*I will help you, can I find the time,


I would help you, could I find the time,

is grammatical (if a little old-fashioned sounding).

I don't believe people ever did this; I haven't found any use of inversion for non-counterfactual conditional clauses (although maybe I didn't look hard enough).

Here, dare is indeed a semi-modal. But it's not a past tense modal and this isn't a counterfactual conditional clause.

So I don't think this would have been grammatical in Early Modern English.

  • Thank you for your detailed answer! I'm new to this site and don't really know how to give thumbs up and suc, but thank you all who answered! – Mate Oct 28 '17 at 20:24

The object of the "dare", here, simply includes a negative possibility; it hasn't been grammatically changed in any way. The only real point of interest is the inversion of the verb and subject, "dare I" rather than "I dare", to give a conditional mood.

For instance, you could equate the negative expression to one that simply uses an embedded negative, such as "dare I refuse to lend him my notes", which would in turn equate to "if I dared (to) refuse to lend him my notes".

It doesn't sound particularly archaic to me, but I probably read more pre-modern English literature than most people.

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