All The More Reason

I’m right, aren’t I?
September 8, 2006, 12:02 am
Filed under: Language, Uncategorized

The following is from the wonderful English Usage by Eric Partridge. (note – the edition linked to is not the same as mine)

we aren’t and we’re not. [Reversed: only aren’t we is possible as a shortening of are not we?] Weseen says that ‘we’re not is preferred’; but let us take we’re not ready and we aren’t ready. If the emphasis is on ready, at least as many people would say, ‘We aren’t ready, you know’; if on not, ‘We’re not ready ‘ is preferable; if on we, ‘We aren’t ready’ is probably as common as ‘We’re not ready.’

Until a week ago I don’t believe I had ever consciously thought of this difference, let alone which ones I prefer depending on emphasis. Rather humbling. For what it’s worth, if we change ready for coming, we could see how one phrase acts slightly more as a declaration of a decision made, and the other as a statement of fact during the conversation itself.

Who’s coming to the party tonight?
We’re not coming. [statement of fact]
You’re not coming?
We aren’t coming. [assertion of decision]
Ok, so you aren’t coming, who else isn’t coming? [instead of who else’s not coming?]

But that is just pure conjecture.

Jonathan Smith


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