Negation (Negative Sentences)



 In grammar, negation is the process that turns an affirmative statement into its opposite denial .

・I am Japanese.
・I am not Japanese.

  The linguist Tottie refers to two types of negation,

・Synthetic ('no', 'neither' or 'nor' negation)
・Analytic ('not' negation).

・"He is neither here nor there" (synthetic)
・"He is not here" (analytic).

  Nouns as well as verbs can be grammatically negated, by the use of:

a negative adjective (There is no chicken)

・No way!
・I have no idea.
・She had no money.
・He caught fewer fish than the rest of us.
・I have little money.
・I have few dollars.
・I have less money than you.
・a little group of people

negative pronoun (Nobody is the chicken)

・That is none of your business.
None of these men is my father.
・I got nothing to lose.
・You have nothing to worry about.
・We called, but no one answered.
No one has ever done this before.
Nobody could answer my question.
Nobody knew how.
・He didn't go there. Neither do I.
・There are two flashlights, neither of which works.
Neither of them dances well.

a negative adverb (I never was the chicken).

・I do not love her.
・He could not pass the exam.
・I never met her.
・I have never seen that happen before.
・You never know the guy I have met now.
・The changes in service have hardly been noticed.
Hardly anyone showed up for the meeting.
・This is hardly a new idea for a movie.
・He could scarcely control his joy.
Scarcely a day goes by when they don't see or talk to each other.
・He had scarcely enough money.
・She rarely talks about her past.
Rarely do we see this kind of weather in our area.
・We seldom go to the movies.
・They seldom come here now.
・He seldom won the annual pie eating contest.
・The plane is so far away now I can barely see it.
・Yes, it is barely visible.
・There is barely a difference between the two.
・I have nowhere to go.
Nowhere is there more of a population problem than in this city.
・I can speak little.
・His art is little known in this country.

 negative sentence (or statement) states that something is not true or incorrect.

  A negative adverb has to be added in order to negate or “cancel” the validity of the sentence. This “negation” element is created according to the following general rule.

 The Negation Rule: In English, in order to claim that something is not true, you form a negative sentence by adding the word "not" after the first auxiliary verb in the positive sentence.

  If there is no auxiliary verb in the positive sentence, as in the Present Simple and Past Simple tenses, then you add one (in both these cases, the auxiliary verb "do").

・ When an auxiliary verb (including modals) is used, the main verb is not inflected (no "s" or "ed" ending), meaning that either the base form or past participle is used.


・I am not Japanese.
・You are not Japanese.
・He is not Japanese.
・I was not Japanese.
・We were not Japanese.
・I am not playing the guitar.
・You are not playing the guitar.
・She is not playing the guitar.
・He was not playing the guitar.
・We were not playing the guitar.
・I am not punished.
・You are not punished.
・She is not punished.
・I was not punished.
・You were not punished.

・I do not play the guitar.
・He does not play the guitar.
・They did not play the guitar.

・I have not eaten dinner yet.
・She has not eaten dinner yet.
・We had not eaten dinner yet.
・I have not been eating enough.
・He has not been eating enough.
・She had not been eating enough.
・I have not been punished.
・He has not been punished.
・They had not been punished.

・I will not come home.
・You can not come home.
・She may not come home.
・He shall not come home.
・They must not come home.
・We would not go there.
・You could not go there.
・I might not go there.
・He should not go there.

・You ought not to know.
・She had better not know.
・He does not have to know.
・We didn't use to know.
・I dare not know.
・They do not need know

 Double negative 

 double negative is usually produced by combining the negative form of verb (e.g., cannot, did not, have not) with a negative pronoun (e.g., nothing, nobody), a negative adverb (e.g., never, hardly) or a negative conjunction (e.g., neither/nor).

 The usage of double negatives is not considered proper or standard in English.

  On some occasions, mostly when speaking, the use of double negatives is accepted; however, you must remember that the meaning of these expressions will always be positive.

 double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same clause.


・I don't want nothing.
(I want something.)

 Agreement or not 


"So" is used to show agreement with positive statements.

SO + Auxiliary + Subject (pronoun)

The Auxiliary needs to agree with the verb tense in the original statement.

It is similar to using "too" at the end of a sentence.


Neither is used to show agreement with negative statements. 

The Auxiliary needs to agree with the verb tense in the original statement.

It is similar to using "either" at the end of a sentence, although "Neither" is more commonly used, especially in spoken English. 

Sometimes people respond "Me Neither" instead of ""Neither + Auxiliary + Subject" though this is very informal spoken English.

 Gerunds and Infinitives 

We use "not" before "infinitives" and "-ing forms". "Do" is not used. 


・He enjoys not working.
・The best thing for your health is not smoking.
・I decided not to go.
・The most important thing is not to give up.
・Do you promise not to tell my secret?
Not arriving on time makes me uncomfortable.
・She considered not cycling up the mountain.
・She promised not to cycle up the mountain.
・She promised us not to cycle up the mountain.

 Inversion with negative adverbs 

Some negative adverbs can cause an inversion - the order is reversed and the verb goes before the subject


・I have never seen such courage.
➔・ Never have I seen such courage.

・She rarely left the house.
➔・Rarely did she leave the house.

・I have never seen him crying.
➔・Never have I seen him crying.

・I little knew what was going to happen. ➔・Little did I know what was going to happen.

Negative inversion is used in writingnot in speaking.

Other adverbs and adverbial expressions that can be used like this:
seldom, scarcely, hardly, not only .....
but also, no sooner .....
than, not until, under no circumstances.


The word "too" can be used to express a negative idea and so, to show the speaker's attitude to the quantity (so many that ... /so much he couldn't ...).


・It's too hot to play outside.
・I am too tired to go out tonight.
・He works too hard.
・This coffee is too hot.
・The coffee was too hot for me.
・The dress was too small for her.
・The coffee was too hot to drink.
・You're too young to have grandchildren!

 Degree of negation 

at all

in the slightest degree ( used with a negative or in a question ) in any way whatsoever or to any extent or degree

・I wasn't surprised at all.
・I didn't know that at all
・He was not at all frightened.
・He is not at all serious.
・I'm not at all excited.

In the least, In the slightest

To any extent at all
In the slightest degree or in any respect:


・Not in the least surprised.
・The company is not corrupt in the least.
・The whole stupid argument didn't interest me in the slightest.

a bit

none at all; not at all


・Am I unhappy? Not a bit.
・I'm not a bit happy with this bag
・She was not a bit interested.
・There's not a bit of difference between the two candidates.

 Other negative expressions 

cannot…too, can never…too

"you cannot be too ..." means something like "you can always be more ..." or "there is no harm in being too ...".

  The same thing goes for the others. For example, "This cannot be emphasized too much" means that "This can always be emphasized more" or "There is no harm in overemphasizing this".


・You can never be too careful.
・It cannot be emphasized too strongly.
・I cannot repeat this too often.
・You can't begin too soon.

Anything but…

in no degree or respect; not in the least:


The plans were anything but definite.
We can't do anything but wait
Our hosts were anything but friendly.
It would be anything but a guidebook.

Keep (somebody) from -ing, Prevent (somebody) form -ing

To prevent or restrain (oneself or another); refrain or cause to refrain


・Please keep your dog from running through our garden.
・I can hardly keep from laughing.
・I could hardly keep from setting her free.
・ it was all he could do to keep from hugging us.