I frequently see contractions such as “isn’t” and “wasn’t” used in sentences such as:
Why wasn’t she there?
Which would be equivalent to:
Why was not she there?
Which doesn’t make any sense. Considering how often I see this used I thought I could find something online about it, however I haven’t had any luck.
Is it grammatically correct to use “isn’t” and “wasn’t” in sentences like the one above, and the one below? If so, why?
Why isn’t Dad home yet?
Firstly, have a look at this (source):
Now, if you were to make contractions in these line, you would write:
- Is not she a fine creature? = Isn’t she a fine creature?
- Has not she parts? = Hasn’t she parts?
- Is not her beauty natural… = Isn’t her beauty natural…
This kind of usage is now archaic. According, to this usage, you would simply write isn’t she as is not she, hasn’t she as has not she, and so on.
But nowadays, we use statements like:
- Is she not a fine creature?
- Has she not parts?
- Is her beauty not natural…
As you can see, now, “not” comes after the subject. For e.g.,
- Isn’t he coming? = Is he not coming?
- Hasn’t she done it? = Has she not done it?
- Why hasn’t he come yet? = Why has he not come yet?