Negation
You should have at some point in your
education learned that double negatives
are incorrect in English:
We don’t have no money.
Incorrect!!!!!!!
It should be
We don’t have any money.
or
We have no money.
In Spanish, however, it’s perfectly fine to
have double, triple, quadruple negatives.
In fact, sometimes it’s incorrect if you don’t
have a double negative.
First, let’s look at the negative words and their opposites:
nunca
nadie
nada
ni . . . ni
ninguno
también
never
no one
nothing
neither…nor
none (adj.)
too, also
siempre
alguien
algo
o...o
alguno
tampoco
always
someone
something
either… or
some (adj.)
either,neither
OK, a note about some of these words. “Ni .
. . ni” and “o . . . o” may confuse you, but
you use them just like you do in English:
O mi padre o mi madre sabe.
Either my father or my mother knows.
Ni mi padre ni mi madre sabe.
Neither my father nor my mother knows.
Another thing: “alguno” and “ninguno” lose the “o” and gain an accent mark if you put them in
front of a masculine noun:
Algún hombre tiene el libro.
Algunos hombres tienen el libro.
Alguna mujer tiene el libro.
Algunas mujeres tienen el libro.
Ningún hombre tiene el libro.
Ninguna mujer tiene el libro.
Notice that I didn’t give you plural examples with “ninguno.” Consider this:
I have no book. Vs. I have no books.
What’s the difference? None. We actually prefer to say, “I don’t have any books.”
Spanish prefers the singular:
Ningún hombre tiene el libro.
rather than
Ningunos hombres tienen el libro.
So when exactly do you use “alguno” and “ninguno” with the “o,” you may be asking yourself.
The answer is whenever they’re standing alone in place of the noun:
Alguno tiene el libro. -- Some one (some man) has the book.
Ninguno tiene el libro. – None (no man) has the book.
Now for the lesson:
No one has the book. -- Nadie tiene el libro.
Nothing is new. -- Nada es nuevo.
He never runs. -- Nunca corre.
All of the above sentences have just one negative. They could have more, but they
don’t have to have more.
But the following sentences MUST have at least two negatives:
I don’t know anyone here. -- No conozco a nadie aquí.
I don’t have anything. – No tengo nada.
He never runs. – No corre nunca.
Here’s the rule: if you have a negative AFTER the verb, you MUST have a negative
BEFORE the verb.
In the first group there’s no negative after the verb. In the second group, there is a
negative after the verb, so you have to put “no” before the verb.
Now, look at these sentences:
Nunca hacemos nada. – We never do anything.
Nadie lee el libro tampoco. – No one is reading the
book either.
Notice that I didn’t put “no” in front of the verb, in
spite of the fact that there is a negative after the
verb. Here’s the other part of the rule: if there’s
already a negative before the verb, don’t put “no”
there.
So to sum up, here are the rules:
1.
2.
3.
If there’s a negative after the verb, there MUST be a
negative before the verb.
If there’s a negative already before the verb, don’t put “n”
there.
As long as you follow these two rules, you can have as
many negatives as you want.
Juan nunca quiere darle nada a nadie tampoco.
Juan never wants to give anything to anybody, either.
Literally, Juan never wants to give nothing to nobody neither.
There’s not a word for “anything,” “anybody,” etc. So you have
no choice but to use “nothing,” “nobody,” etc.
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Negation - Gordon State College