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Double Negatives in English Grammar

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Do you struggle with double negatives? Do you find double-negative sentences confusing?

 

What are double negatives in a sentence?

There are negatives, and then there are double negatives. No and not are often part of a negative sentence.

☞I have no bananas.
☞I do not have any bananas.

what are double negatives

 

Even though two wrongs don’t make a right, two negatives do make a positive. Sometimes you might purposely use two negatives. Other times you might use a double negative by mistake.

☞I cannot sit here and say nothing.

That sentence is a perfectly good double negative. It means that you want to say something. It comes out as a positive.

 

☞I can’t say nothing about that.

This sentence is likely incorrect. The writer probably means I can’t say anything about that.



What is a double negative examples?

That won’t do us no good.
I ain’t got no time for dinner.
Nobody with any sense isn’t going.
I can’t find my bag nowhere.
He never goes with nobody.
Matt says he has not seen neither Mary or Susan all day.
I didn’t steal nothing.
He ain’t never told no lies.
You can’t see no one in this crowd.
There aren’t no presents left to open.
All the witnesses claimed that didn’t see nothing.
The pilot can’t find no place to land.
There is no way you can do nothing about this.
He doesn’t have nothing but the clothes on his back.
We haven’t never seen a tornado that big.
It ain’t right to not paint the house.
You shouldn’t do nothing to the house.
The hospital won’t allow no more visitors.
I don’t have nobody to mow my lawn.
That attitude won’t get you nowhere.

 

Here are some sentences in which the double negative is probably incorrect:

I don’t need no pencil. (I don’t need a pencil?)
☞Please don’t wait and end up doing nothing about it.
☞They don’t have any more candy left.
☞I can’t see no one. (I can’t see anyone?)
☞She don’t have no children. (She doesn’t have any children?)



There are some words that don’t sound like negative words, but they are, so do not use another negative with them by mistake.

Barely, hardly, and scarcely are negative words:

☞I can’t barely see anything in the dark theater. (Should be I can barely see anything in the dark theater.)
☞I can’t scarcely read the writing because it is so small. (Should be I can scarcely read the writing because it is so small.)
☞I can’t hardly believe it is you! (Should be I can hardly believe it is you!)

I suppose that if you use three negatives in a sentence, the sentence goes back to having a negative meaning, but I wouldn’t try it:

☞I can’t barely see nothing in this dark theater.

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