Question from Rick in the USA

Why do we say “I did not meet him” rather than “I did not met him”, since this is the past tense?

 

Answer

Hi Rick. I’m going to answer this one although the answer is explained in the English4Today Online Grammar under the section dealing with forming the negative.

Let’s do a quick review of how the negative is formed in English. First we’ll take your sentence in the affirmative:

  • I met him.

That’s fine… we have the verb in the Simple Past (don’t forget that ‘meet’ is an irregular verb and the past form is ‘met’). Now let’s make it negative. To make the sentence negative we have to use:

SUBJECT + DID + NOT + INFINITIVE OR BASE FORM OF THE VERB WITHOUT ‘TO’

I DID NOT MEET HIM.

What you need to remember here is that the auxiliary verb ‘DO’ is the one that carries the tense – that is, if we are using the Simple Past, as in the original sentence, then DO becomes DID. But the main verb ‘MEET’ stays in the infinitive – that is in its base form without ‘to’ – and is not put into the Simple Past.

Try making this one negative:

  • She went to Rome last month.

OK … you should have written:

  • She DID NOT GO (or ‘didn’t go’) to Rome last month.

If you’re still not sure, have a look through the English4Today Online English Grammar section on forming the negative.

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