Double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence. Just like in mathematics, double negative words in a sentence, transform it into a positive one. However, it should be noted that double negatives are not encouraged in English in general, especially in formal English, because they are considered poor grammar, and can sometimes be confusing. Below are examples of double negatives with the negative words underlined and the corrections followed by the correct sentence in italic font.
Double Negative: It won’t do you no good.
Correct: It won’t do you any good.
Double Negative: I can’t find my keys nowhere.
Correct: I can’t find my keys anywhere.
Double Negative: She never goes with nobody.
Correct: She never goes with anybody.
Double Negative: You can’t see no one in this crowd.
Correct: You can’t see anyone in this crowd.
Double Negative: There aren’t no presents left to open.
Correct: There are no presents left to open.
All the witnesses claimed that they didn’t see nothing.
Sometimes a negative can be formed by attaching the prefixes ir-, in-, non- and un-. Here are some examples:
Double Negative: His death is certainly not irrefutable.
Correct: His death is certainly not refutable
Double Negative: This car is not uncommon.
Correct: This car is not common
Double Negative: The results are not inconclusive.
Correct: The results are not conclusive
Short Quiz: Correct the following sentences by eliminating double negatives
- His rebuttal was clearly not nonsensical.
- The driver can’t find no place to park.
- We haven’t never seen a tsunami that big.
- You shouldn’t do nothing to the car .
- The hospital won’t allow no more visitors.
- I don’t have nobody to mow my lawn.
- That attitude won’t get you nowhere.
- The price of the car is not insignificant.
- It is not unnecessary to tell the truth all the time.
- The new disease wasn’t non-infectious.
- His rebuttal was clearly not sensical.
- The driver can’t find any place to park.
- We have never seen a tsunami that big.
- You shouldn’t do anything to the car .
- The hospital won’t allow any more visitors.
- I don’t have anybody to mow my lawn.
- That attitude won’t get you anywhere.
- The price of the car is not significant.
- It is not necessary to tell the truth all the time.
- The new disease wasn’t infectious.