Double Trouble: Double Negatives in English
Have you ever heard that two negatives make a positive? This is not only a concept in math class, but in English, too! This week, our blog is all about double negatives in English.
Even though double negatives, for example: not never, don’t neither, may be standard in some regional dialects, they are incorrect in standard English. You may know this already from your English teachers, but they may not have told you exactly why.
We hope to clear this up for you (make it clear to you). If you’ve ever used a double negative in the past, keep reading to find out why you can’t…well, shouldn’t… use them in English, and how you can phrase your sentences better.
Double negatives broken down
As we mentioned above, double negatives can be a tricky concept for non-native English speakers- and even some native speakers- because double negatives are standard in some languages! Even some regional dialects in English, for example the English spoken in the American South, use double negatives as part of their standard speech.
However, when you’re in a business situation, it’s best to use standard English and that means: no double negatives.
So, what are double negatives?
Double negatives are pretty much what they sound like. A double negative is a non-standard English construction where a negation (something made negative) is added to both the verb and the modifier of the noun, or to the object of the verb.
Normally when negating something in English, a negation is just added to the verb, or a negative noun form such as nowhere, nothing, or no one is used.
- I will bake a cake.
- I will not bake a cake.
- He’s going there.
- He’s going nowhere.
- I can go on Saturday.
- I cannot go on Saturday.
When someone uses a double negative, it will usually look something like this:
- I won’t bake no cake.
- He’s not going nowhere.
- I can’t go nowhere on Saturday.
While the Rolling Stones “can’t get no satisfaction,” we want you to be completely satisfied with your double negatives training! Try taking out the extra negation with some examples for you to correct on your own, using only one negation word per sentence.
Try fixing these double negatives– answers below.
1. That won’t do you no good.
2. I can’t get no satisfaction.
3. She can’t find her keys nowhere.
4. There is no way you can do nothing about that.
5. He can’t see no one.
6. You shouldn’t do nothing.
7. They won’t go nowhere if they keep acting like that.
8. It ain’t right to not say nothing.
9. He don’t have nobody to help him.
10. That word is not uncommon.
11. There isn’t nothing left to do.
The Answers: no Double Negatives
1. That won’t do you any good.
2. I can’t get any satisfaction.
3. She can’t find her keys anywhere.
4. There is no way you can do anything about that.
5. He can’t see anyone.
6. You shouldn’t do anything.
7. They won’t go anywhere if they keep acting like that.
8. It’s not right to not say anything.
9. He doesn’t have anybody to help him.
10. That word is not common. / That word is uncommon.
11. There isn’t anything left to do.
How did you do? What other popular double negations have you heard? Let us know in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and though she is also from the American South, she doesn’t use any of these double negatives- not even at home!