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Tag Questions “is he not”

Which is correct:

  • Is it not raining today?
  • Isn't it raining today?
  • Related and with the right answer: Tag Questions "is he not"
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 11:30
  • Both are correct. Don't let's make the mistake of assuming that expanding contractions in a grammatical sentence gives another grammatical sentence that means the same thing. Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 11:42
  • Careful, "isn't" is not "is not". Your title was really asking a different question from that in the body. It's best to think of contractions as independent words of their own with their own syntactic rules.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


Either sentence you typed is acceptable.

"Is not it raining today" used to be another perfectly valid form, used often in the works of Jane Austen or Shakespeare, but has fallen out of use in modern times. Using it today would read as archaic. I suspect that's why the contraction is still acceptable.

Apparently my recollection is faulty on the above. Mea culpa.

  • "Is not it raining today" was never valid. See this Ngram—note the capital 'I'. You can find it used in a few old books, but I suspect this was because the authors felt that contractions were too informal to use in print, and so they expanded their spoken "Isn't it raining" to the incorrect "Is not it raining". I doubt that it was ever used in spoken English. Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 12:01

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