The Difference Between “I Am Not” and “I Do Not”

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A common mistake I hear learners make is to say “I’m not” with verbs such as “understand” and “agree.” 

Firstly, let’s review what verbs are. 

Verbs can be action words like “play”, “swim”, “walk, “smoke”, or non-action words like “know”, “understand”, “agree”, “remember”, “need”.  

Never use “I am not” with a verb. Always use “I do not” with a verb.

Practise with me: 

I do not understand. (Do not say “I’m not understand”.)

I do not agree. (Do not say “I’m not agree.”)

Note that “I don’t” is commonly used in everyday spoken form.

Let’s practise answering the following questions in full with “No, I do not…” or “No, I don’t…”:

  1. Do you play volleyball?
  2. Do you smoke?
  3. Do you remember the password?
  4. Do you know what’s going on?
  5. Do you understand why he said that? 
  6. Do you agree with what he said?


Answers:

  1. No, I do not play volleyball.
  2. No, I don’t smoke.
  3. No, I don’t remember the password.
  4. No, I don’t know what’s going on.
  5. No, I don’t understand why he said that.
  6. No, I don’t agree with what he said.


So what is the correct way of using “I am not”?

“I am not” is a phrase you can say to negate something about yourself. In everyday spoken form, use “I’m not.”

You can attach the following to the phrase “I am not”:

  • Feelings:
    • I’m not angry at you.
    • I am not at all disappointed.
    • I’m not interested.
  • A characteristic:
    • I am not a doctor. I’m a teacher.
  • An ability:
    • I am not good at maths, but I’m good at science.


Let’s practise answering the following questions in full with, “No, I am not…” or “No, I’m not…”:

  1. Are you the president of your company?
  2. Are you in charge of this place?
  3. Are you fluent in Japanese?
  4. Are you good at volleyball?
  5. Are you happy with the state of the world right now?


Answers:

  1. No, I am not the president of my company.
  2. No, I’m not in charge of this place.
  3. No, I’m not fluent in Japanese.
  4. No, I am not good at volleyball.
  5. No, I’m not happy with the state of the world right now.


Here’s where it gets interesting. 

You may use “I’m not” phrases as an alternative to “I don’t like” and “I don’t enjoy”. 

For example, instead of saying “I don’t like politics”, you can say “I’m not interested in politics” or “I’m not into politics.” 

There are many more alternative phrases to “I don’t like” and “I don’t enjoy” that begin with “I’m not”.

I go through many more examples in this podcast episode, so you can expand your vocabulary. 

Have a listen here.

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Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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