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Emphasis in English

Home » Advanced English Grammar » Emphasis in English

Emphasis in English

Emphasis in English

Is it possible to apply emphasis in English? Are there any words we can insert into our sentences to emphasise what we’re saying or asking? Yes.

To emphasise in English, we use the auxiliary verb ‘to do‘ to put emphasis on both negative and positive statements and questions. We can also refrain from or avoid using the contracted forms of other auxiliary verbs when it’s not possible to use ‘to do’ to add emphasis.

Moreover, there are other ways you can apply emphasis in English such as with the use of cleft sentences, auxiliary inversion, and using punctuation adequately.

In this lesson, we will focus on using emphasis in English with verbs, specifically with the main auxiliary verb to do.

Emphasis in English — use the main auxiliary verb to do

Use “to do” for emphasis with answers, statements, and negative answers in the past and present tenses.

Non contracted negative form implies emphasis (do not instead of don’t etc.).

  • Do you like my new shirt? Yes, I do like it a lot.
  • Hey, James have you seen the new film that just came out? Oh, yeah, I did see it, actually.
  • I do fancy a quick break.
  • I did not enjoy that performance whatsoever (non-contracted form is emphatic here).

Ordinary verbs, examples above with no emphasis. To do is omitted or contracted to avoid emphasis

  • Do you like my new shirt? Yes, I like it a lot.
  • Hey, James, have you seen the new film that just came out? Oh, yeah, I saw it, actually.
  • I fancy a quick break.
  • I didn’t enjoy that performance whatsoever.

In these examples above, because the main auxiliary verb “to do” is not used, there is no emphasis. Moreover, usage of the contraction in the last phrase “didn’t” signals a lack of emphasis.

All non-contracted forms = emphasis in English, usually  

  • I can not see you this evening, I am sorry, I am very busy.
  • Shall we go out tonight? No, we shall not, I am exhausted tonight.
  • My sister may not see anyone until she’s done all her homework.
  • Are we all set to leave in ten minutes? Yes, we are set.

Other auxiliary verbs, examples with no emphasis. Contracted forms to avoid emphasis

  • I can’t see you this evening, I’m sorry, I’m very busy.
  • Shan’t we go out tonight? No, we shan’t, I’m really tired tonight.
  • My child won’t see anyone until she’s done all her homework.
  • Are we all set to leave in ten minutes? Yes, We’re set.

See also