Double NegativesA double negative occurs when two negative terms are used in the same sentence.
Easy Examples of Double Negatives
- I ain't got no money.
- I didn't see nothing.
- I couldn't find it nowhere.
Real-Life Examples of Double NegativesA double negative is usually created by combining the negative form of a 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).
- My daughter Chantelle wouldn't shout at nobody. (A negative verb with the negative pronoun nobody)
- Chantelle didn't never call the teacher that word. (A negative verb (didn't call) with the negative adverb never)
- She did not have neither her address nor her phone number. (A negative verb with the negative conjunction neither/nor)
- I cannot say that I do not disagree with you. (Comedian Groucho Marx) (If you follow it through logically, you'll find it means "I disagree with you".)
Why Should I Care about Double Negatives?A double negative is usually an error because it portrays a positive sense when a negative one is intended.
- Russ didn't steal nothing. (Logically, this means Russ stole something. In reality, readers nearly always understand the intended meaning.)
Of course, the resultant positive sense can be intended.
- He is not unattractive.
- He is not unconvincing.
- He is not without charm.
- A double negative giving an unintended positive sense is an error.
- A double negative with an intended positive sense can be useful when a touch of diplomacy might not be unhelpful.