If you don’t like a certain idea, what would you say? I think it’s not a good idea or I don’t think it’s a good idea? Logic would suggest that we should say I think it’s not a good idea: after all, it’s not a good idea is what we think. But in fact I don’t think it’s a good idea is what we normally say when offering a negative opinion or judgement. The negation that really belongs with the second main verb in the sentence is moved to the left and attached to the first one instead. The same happens with many other verbs of opinion or perception:
It doesn’t look as if it’s going to rain.
I don’t suppose he’ll come now.
I don’t believe I’ve met you before.
He didn’t expect to win.
She doesn’t appear to be awake.
Keeping the not in the second part of the sentence does not result in wrong English: it simply sounds less natural in speech. So when offering a negative opinion or judgement, remember to move the negative!
©2015 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands