“Didn’t” is the mantra of toddlers and teenagers everywhere. If you ask a child who made the mess, the response is inevitably, “I didn’t do it!” While “didn’t” indicates that an event did not occur, adding the word “yet” can change things.
“Yet” and “didn’t” can appear together in a sentence. “Did” is the simple past tense form of “do,” and the inclusion of “yet” with “didn’t” means that something did not happen in the past, but there is a chance that it may occur in the future. You can also use “didn’t yet” together as a phrase, but only under certain circumstances.
To understand the nuances of simple past tense and the inclusion of “yet” with the negative contraction “didn’t,” keep reading.
Meaning of “Yet” and “Didn’t”
“Yet” is an adverb that means that something has not happened until now, but there is a possibility that it may occur in the future. The possibility is open-ended and does not specify when the situation may take place (source).
However, the word “yet” also has quite a few nuanced meanings.
First, it means that something has not happened until that moment but may happen in the future. Second, it refers to the current moment in time or a specified period. For example, you might say, “don’t go yet” when asking someone to stay.
Third, “yet” can refer to a moment at a future point but starts at the current moment. An example of this would be, “I hope to be teaching for some time yet.”
Less common, though correct, you can also use “yet” to indicate repetition. For example, “There was rain, rain, and yet more rain.” It also can indicate that something has happened, despite the previous event. An example is, “I studied every day, and yet my marks kept getting worse.”
“Yet” can also be a conjunction. It shows that something can happen at the same time, but despite that, it continues. The meaning is similar to its usage as an adverb (source).
- It was raining, yet the sun was out.
- She was lying to me, yet I desperately wanted to believe her.
“Didn’t” is a contraction that combines the words “did” and “not.” You would use this informally. “Did” is the past tense form for the verb “do” and indicates that something happened in the past.
“Not,” on the other hand, is a negative adverb that shows the opposite or negative of whatever idea you are presenting. Therefore, “didn’t” means that something which was supposed to happen did not.
“Did” and Simple Past Tense
Simple past tense is the most straightforward tense form. It does not require a lot of change when moving from the simple present tense to the past.
|Simple Present Tense||Simple Past Tense|
|I love to bake.||I loved to bake.|
|We run every afternoon.||We ran every afternoon.|
|Harry talks too much; it gets annoying.||Harry talked too much; it got annoying.|
Many verbs only require that you add -d or -ed to become past simple tense. However, there are a few irregular verbs where the form of the verb has to change. In the examples above, “run” and “gets” are examples of irregular verbs (source).
Another example of an irregular verb that concerns us is “do.” “Do,” in the simple past tense, changes to “did.”
- I wanted to do my best on my exams.
- I did my best in the exams.
- Please do what I tell you to.
- They did what I told them to.
You can often use “did” before verbs when asking a question or responding to a question. Using it indicates that the verb you are referring to is something that happened or should have happened in the past.
- Did you call your mom?
- Yes, I did call her. She’s doing well.
- Did you switch off the stove?
- Oh no! I didn’t!
Since “did” and “didn’t” are simple past tense forms, their meanings can be a lot more flexible than continuous past tense or past perfect tense.
“Didn’t” and “Yet”
As we mentioned previously, you can quite easily use “didn’t” and “yet” in a sentence together.
“Didn’t” and “Yet” in a Sentence
“Didn’t” indicates an event that has not taken place in the past. Additionally, until the present moment, it has still not taken place.
- She didn’t give me anything to eat or drink when I visited her.
- Hermione didn’t feel like doing her homework, which was strange.
- Didn’t you want to come over today?
As soon as you insert “yet” into the sentence, the meaning changes. Although the event may not have taken place in the past, there is hope for it to happen in the future. Therefore, when you use “yet,” you indicate a high likelihood or possibility of the event happening at some point.
- She didn’t give me anything to drink yet.
- Hermione didn’t feel like doing her homework yet.
In both the previous examples, adding “yet” indicates that an event has not occurred until that point, but it will probably happen quite soon. For example, someone will offer our unknown narrator in the first sentence a drink, and Hermione might find the motivation to do her homework.
“Didn’t” and “yet” can also appear together in the same sentence when you use “yet” as a conjunction.
- I didn’t believe her, yet she looked at me directly.
- Lavender didn’t know what to say to him, yet she still held his hand.
- I didn’t open my eyes, yet I could hear them whispering in my room.
You can also replace the word “yet” with “but” or “nevertheless” in these examples, and the meaning would remain the same.
Using “Didn’t Yet” Together in a Sentence
There are times where “didn’t” and “yet” will appear together in a sentence. In previous examples, we saw that “didn’t” is followed by a verb and predicate and then ends with “yet.”
There are certain times when you can follow “didn’t” directly with “yet” and still be grammatically accurate in your writing.
Let us look at two sentences to compare the effectiveness of syntax: “She did not come to the door yet” versus “She didn’t yet come to the door.”
Both statements have the same meaning, but moving the word “yet” directly after “didn’t” changes the pace of the sentence and adds a level of impatience. When “yet” is at the end of the sentence, it shows that something has not taken place but will happen eventually.
In contrast, adding “yet” straight after “didn’t” makes it sound like the speaker will complete an action with more promptness.
While some people might assume a difference between American and British English in the changed syntax, both sides of the pond use “didn’t yet,” although it appears more commonly in American texts.
This could be because of the nature of American life, which is a little more rushed. American English is also simplified and straightforward, which thus makes sense for you to put “yet” directly after the negation instead of saving it until the end of the clause.
- The United Nations did not exist yet.
- The United Nations did not yet exist.
- Dean did not yet have a lawyer.
- Dean did not have a lawyer yet.
“Didn’t yet” also has some extra formality built into the phrase, and sentences that you write in this way come across as more academic and prescriptive.
“Didn’t” vs. “Haven’t”
When using “didn’t” or “haven’t” in a sentence, one would assume their meanings are similar. For example, “Have you finished your homework?” asks for the same information as “Did you finish your homework?” Right? Not exactly.
We already discussed how you could use “did” in simple past tense sentences, and in this way, you can refer to any moment from the past to the present. In contrast, “have” is an auxiliary verb that you will use with a past participle to create perfect tenses.
“Haven’t” and the Perfect Tense
To create the present and future perfect tense, you must use “have” or “has.” For past perfect tense, you will use “had,” which we will disregard for our purposes here. Nonetheless, along with “have” or “has,” we also need the past participle of the verb.
Because “did” is the simple past tense and “have” is present or future perfect tense, we phrase the sentences differently. There has to be a difference in the verb tense to make it grammatically accurate (source).
- Have you eaten lunch?
- Did you eat lunch?
- Didn’t you have a date tonight?
- Haven’t you been on your date?
Above, you can see that even though the information someone is asking for is similar, there are some differences in phrasing and expectation (source).
The main difference is in the tense usage, and because of that, the expectations of the question are different.
In the sentences asking about lunch, “Have you eaten lunch?” is in the present perfect tense. The question asks if the action is complete, knowing that it could have taken place in the past and until the current moment.
In contrast, “Did you eat lunch?” asks for a simple yes or no response because the action already took place in the past.
Similarly, in the question about the date, “didn’t” asks if the date took place in the past, while “haven’t” asks if the date has been taking place or completed up until the present time.
While the nuance may be subtle, there are appropriate times for each. If you’re finding that the present perfect tense is a little tricky, try reading “Can I Use Present Perfect and Past Perfect in the Same Sentence?” to clear up any misunderstandings.
When to Use “Didn’t” and “Haven’t”
To understand when to use “didn’t,” we’ll use the example: “I didn’t call my doctor.”
In this example, “didn’t” indicates an action that did not occur in the past. It functions as an auxiliary verb because it shows that the main action (calling) did not occur.
It is also in the simple past tense. If we add “yet” to the sentence, the meaning changes. “I didn’t call my doctor yet” also indicates that the action did not take place in the past but suggests it could take place in the future.
“Didn’t” can also take a time marker to indicate when the event did not take place.
- I didn’t go on vacation because the borders were closed.
- They didn’t want to go out last night as it was too cold.
- Fred didn’t know what to do at 6 p.m. yesterday.
You should only use “didn’t” when referring to something that happened in the past and does not continue into the present.
Similarly, “haven’t” is also an auxiliary verb. It has to be connected to the main verb to make sense. It is distinguishable from “didn’t” by its tense type. You’ll use “haven’t” in the present perfect tense, and it indicates a possibility of something still happening, while “didn’t” confirms that it did not occur in the past.
- I haven’t been out in a while.
- I haven’t done my homework.
- They haven’t come home from school yet.
To learn more about present perfect tense and when it is most appropriate to use, read “Why Do We Call It Present Perfect?” to get a good breakdown of the tense.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
We also frequently use “haven’t” with “yet” as it creates a sense of immediacy in your writing and speech. Using the present perfect tense, you can indicate that you have not done something yet, but it may happen quite soon.
Now that we have broken down how you can use “didn’t” and “yet,” writing grammatically correct sentences that get the message across should be a lot simpler.
In summary, “didn’t” and “yet” can appear in the same sentence when you wish to indicate that an event did not happen, but there is a chance of it happening later.
“Didn’t yet” is a more formal way of presenting the same idea. When you started reading, you didn’t yet know how to use the phrase…and now you do!