Posted by Henry on November 04, 2003
In Reply to: 'is it not the ....' posted by James Briggs on November 04, 2003
: : My question is related to the use of the construct 'is it not the ...'.
: : I hear this most often in parliamentary debate with the phrase 'Is it not the case that ...'.
: : Why is the 'not' used?
: : Both of the phrases 'Is it the case that ...' and 'Is not the case that ...' can be answered with a Yes or No answer. So I remain confused as to why the more convoluted form is more commonly used.
: : Is the 'not' used just to generate a comfortable rhythm to the question?
: I've never understood this one either. I await clarification with great interest!
"Is it the case that" begins an enquiry. The enquirer does not the answer, which may be yes or no.
"Is it not the case that" begins a rhetorical question. The speaker believes that the statement which follows is correct.
It is difficult to answer a negative question without ambiguity. Don't you think so?
If you agree, the usual answer is "Yes", meaning "Yes, I do think so" instead of the strictly literal meaning "Yes, I don't think so."