Friday, February 03, 2017

I have not enough

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

During a free-production activity, a student produced the sentence "I have not enough storage space on my phone."  I wrote the sentence down, and during the end of class feedback, I attempted to correct it.

"In English, we make the verbs negative by putting the negative marker after "do" and before the main verb," I explained during my feedback.  "So it should be 'I don't have enough storage space on my phone.' "

The students were resistant to this correction, however.  "But sometimes we can say 'I have not enough' " they insisted.

"No, it has to be 'I don't have enough', " I answered.

But the students persisted.  "I've heard people say 'I have no money' ", one of the said.

I checked "I have no money" against my native speaker intuition, and it sounded perfectly fine.  And yet, "I have not enough" definitely sounded wrong.

But what was the grammar rule that allowed one sentence and not the other?


Stephan Hurtubise said...

This should be easier to answer than that tag question . . . question! ;-D

Basically, in modern English, modals (e.g., "must," "could") and auxiliary verbs ("have" and "be") occupy a position in the sentence that's above (i.e., to the left of negation), whereas main verbs are 'below' negation. In the first example you cite, you've actually got a main verb that just happens to look like an auxiliary verb, which might account for the confusion. The "have" in your first example is the possessive "have," and denotes ownership; so, it should really follow "not." But often we see "have" before negation, as in "I have not eaten in a while." This version of have is, of course, an auxiliary verb; the sentence can't really be said to express ownership of not eating, but instead expresses that, in the recent past, in a way that's relevant to the present, no eating took place.

Not all languages are like this; the French equivalent of your first example would be "Je n'ai pas assez" -- literally, "I (ne) have not enough." All French verbs are 'above' negation, auxiliaries and main ones alike. English used to be like this, too.

As for that last sentence: it works simply because that "no" isn't an instance of sentential negation, but rather a negative determiner associated with the object noun "money." So here, "no money" is syntactically analogous to "some money," "most money," and even "the money." If you negated the entire sentence, it would still have to come before "have" -- so, "I don't have no money" (which is grammatical, if a bit silly sounding) and not "I have not no money" (which is just bad).

Joel Swagman said...

Stephan, thank you as always.

Okay, I think I got this, but let me just clarify:

So the reason we can say "I have no money" and can't say "I have not enough" is because money is a noun, and enough is an adjective. Is that right?

Stephan Hurtubise said...

That's one way to put it, yeah! So, "no" is a determiner, whereas "not" as kind of like an adverb. You're looking at two different structures, despite their surface similarity.

Of course, it's always more complicated. :-P Since "no" is a determiner, we should be able to find it at the beginnings of sentences as well; sure enough, we can say something like "No money is in my possession" to mean the same thing. As an adverb with a fairly fixed position within the clause, "not" isn't quite as free to find its way to the front; we can't easily say something like "Not money is in my possession." That being said, you could say "Not enough money is in my possession." In this case, "enough" is arguably modifying the subject "money," while "not" is apparently modifying "enough." If we're able to construe "not" as associating itself with "enough," why can't we straightforwardly do the same in "I have not enough"? I might speculate that it simply has to do with what we're used to, but I don't actually know for sure.

I must say, I enjoy your grammar questions quite a bit; I find myself exploring corners of English I never knew existed! :-D

Joel Swagman said...

Glad to hear that. I've really been appreciating your help on these as well. It's maddening how complicated all of this can get, but it's also fascinating as well.