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Double Negative - Glossary of Terms


Double Negative

A 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).

Examples:


I didn't see nothing.
I did not have neither her address nor her phone number. 
It wasn't uninteresting
She is not unattractive.

A double negative gives the sentence a positive sense. (e.g., "I didn't see nothing" is similar in meaning to "I saw something.") A double negative is not always an error.  The latter two examples, meaning "It was interesting." and "She is attractive.", are fine.

Example:

I cannot say that I do not disagree with you. (This brilliant quote by Groucho Marx can be considered a triple negative. If you follow it through logically, you'll find it means "I disagree with you".)

Interactive example:

 
She claims she has not seen neither Paul nor John since May. [show me the double negative]
 
Associated pages:
 
Either/or and neither/nor (beware the double negative)
Glossary of grammatical terms
 
 

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