In Grammar By Victoria

Double Negative in English

The concept of «double negation» is not something new or unfamiliar to the Russian-speaking person. After all, in their own language we use it all the time:

  • I will never tell him how she felt.
  • I do not know anything about this incident.
  • I could not agree with your arguments.

If you look at these examples, you will see that in the first two negative meaning of the sentence (but reinforced), and the last — meaning the positive (I agree with you, two negatives there are mutually exclusive). The same happens in English. Now more.

Why use a double negative in English?

First of all, it should be noted, that in itself the use of a double negative in English (double negation / double negative) is considered to be a mistake, especially in writing. According to the rule, the sentence can be only one negative element. For example:

I do not want to read this article. — I do not want to read this article.

Nobody came to this party. — No one came to the party.

She did not see anybody. — She did not see anyone.

My mother can not believe that we got married. — My mom can not believe that we were married.

We will not stay there for anything. — We have no way will not stay here.

Nevertheless, as we all may belong to the notion of a double negative in English, and not accused anyone who uses it, it is impossible not to notice its existence in the language. It was believed that the use of a double negative inherent uneducated people, as an educated man will speak according to rules. But at the moment this statement is quite controversial, because cases of double negation are found everywhere: in songs, films, and in the statements of politicians and just ordinary conversation. Moreover, examples of a double negative in English can be found in the literature. Of course, I would recommend not to use this design as much as possible, but you need to know about it.

Here are some examples of modern use of a double negative in English:

  • Arab League: We Do not Want No Bombs — title of the article resource The Washington Note.
  • You do not want no drama — a line from the song «My humps» the group «Black Eyed Peas»
  • I did not see nothing! Got out and looked, did not see nothing. — Two sentences from the story «Insurance hole» resource «Castle of Spirits Ghost Story».

The World Wide Web the next linguistic circulated anecdote:

Lecture Philology. «In English,» says the professor, «the double negation gives approval. In other languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still denotes negation. But there is no language in which to double the statement meant the denial. » A voice from the back of the desk: «Yeah, of course.»

He has English prototype:

Oxford philosopher of language JL Austin gave a lecture in which he noted that there are many languages ​​wherein a double negative makes a positive, but none in which a double positive makes a negative. From the audience, Columbia philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser replied, «Yeah, yeah.»

This funny story only proves that nothing is impossible. In English, as I said, the use of a double negative pursue one of two goals. The first — is the creation of so-called «weakly positive» values ​​statements. Using two negatives in one sentence, we get the opposite effect.

I do not disagree with you. (I certainly agree.) — I could not agree more with you (I agree).

Never say «no» if she asks you to help her. (Try to say «yes».) — Never say «never» when it asks you to help her (try to say «yes»).

You can not not go. (You must go.) — You can not not go (You’ve got to go).

With the same sense of double negation is used in combination with the words, not the particles containing a negative prefix.

It’s not an unreasonable demand. (It’s a reasonable demand.) — This is a reasonable request.

He is not incompetent in his field. (He is competent in his field.) — He is competent in their field.

But be careful. Pay attention to the context in which used a double negative in English. It is only thanks to him, you will understand the importance implied in a given sentence. In English, «non-standard, not by the rules,» especially in some dialects, may be used two or even three of denial in order to strengthen the main negative values ​​in the proposal. This is the second objective pursued by those who use the double negative. For example:

He did not do nothing. (He did not do anything / He did nothing.) — He did not do anything.

We is not got no milk left. Shall I get some? (We have not got any milk left. Shall I fetch some?) — We have not left the milk. I bring a little?

As you can see, the very concept of double negation can not be called simple, since the case of confusion within the meaning of that is trying to bring us to the speaker. Moreover, in the conventional standard, the British use of such combinations is still not considered to be correct. Therefore, it is desirable to refrain from such experiments. However, knowledge of double negation in English will not be superfluous, if you come here with such an unusual case.



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