Double Negatives In Spanish: Explained in 5 minutes

Double Negatives In Spanish

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As an English speaker, you were probably warned against using double negatives by your teacher in school. However, double negatives in Spanish are not only common among native speakers, but unlike English, they are actually grammatically correct.

In Spanish, there are two ways to create negative sentences.

The first way is to put the word NO before a verb, along with the rest of the sentence, which will explain the action that is being denied (similar to English).

  • Today I didn’t have lunch at work – Hoy no almorcé en el trabajo
  • Yesterday I didn’t study – Ayer no estudié
  • I’m not going to work – No voy a trabajar

The second way to create a negative sentence is to create a double negative, which as mentioned before, is something that is not grammatically correct in English.

So how do we create double negatives in Spanish?

  1. We add no before the verb
  2. We include an adverb or an indefinite pronoun that indicates denial, such as: nada, nadie, ningún, ninguno/a, etc.

We use double negatives Spanish to reinforce the negative meaning of a statement.

  • There was no one at the party – No había nadie en la fiesta
  • I don’t want to drink anything – No quiero beber nada
  • They have nothing to say – Ellos no tienen nada que decir

Double Negatives In Spanish: Words You Need

In order to make double negative sentences, we need to use 1) adverbs that indicate denial, or 2) indefinite pronouns.

1) Adverbs Of Denial

Normally, adverbs help us to add more information to a sentence (How? when? where? how often? etc).

If you are not already familiar with adverbs, then you can read our guide to Spanish adverbs here.

We use adverbs of denial to create double negative sentences, reinforce the negative meaning of our sentence.

Below are the most common Spanish adverbs of denial.

Spanish Denial Adverb English equivalent
No No – not
Ni Nor – neither
Nunca Never
Tampoco Neither
Jamás Either

The formula to make double negative sentences with these adverbs is quite simple.

No + Verb + adverb of denial + complement

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • I don’t like baseball or football – No me gusta ni el baseball ni el fútbol
  • He doesn’t eat vegetables or fruits – El no come ni vegetales ni frutas
  • I will never return to this hotel – No volveré nunca  a este hotel
  • I have never seen such a big snake – No he visto nunca una serpiente tan grande
  • They don’t agree either – Ellos no están de acuerdo tampoco
  • She doesn’t want to go to the meeting either – Ella no quiere ir tampoco a la reunión
  • I never saw her again – Yo no la volví a ver jamás
  • I will never trust him again – No volveré a confiar jamás en él

It’s important to know that you don’t include the word “no” when a negative adverb appears before the verb.

Let’s see some examples of this:

  • I never run in the park – Yo nunca corro en el parque
  • She doesn’t want coffee either – Ella tampoco quiere café
  • Not even being drunk I would do that – Ni estando borracha yo haría eso
  • I never go to the movies – Nunca voy al cine
  • I have never eat meat – Jamás he comido carne

2) Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are words that substitute a noun.

They don’t mention the characteristics of a noun – instead, they only refer to quantity, and in some cases, gender.

The formula to use indefinite pronouns to create double negative Spanish sentences is the same as we saw in the last section.

No + verb + indefinite pronoun + complement

Here are the indefinite pronouns you need to know.

Indefinite pronoun English equivalent
Nadie No one – nobody
Nada Nothing
Ningún – Ninguna – Ninguno Any – none – anyone

And now, some examples of indefinite pronouns being used to create double negative sentences.

  • We couldn’t meet, because nobody came – No pudimos reunirnos porque nadie vino
  • There’s nothing to eat at home – No hay nada de comer en la casa
  • There aren’t any pants in this store that I like – No hay ningún pantalón en esta tienda que me guste
  • There isn’t any option that I like – No hay ninguna opción que me agrade
  • There isn’t any box here – No hay ninguna caja aquí
  • There isn’t any ghost in this house – No hay ningún fantasma en esta casa
  • I saw no one – No vi a nadie
  • I know nothing – No se nada
  • I don’t want anything to eat – No quiero nada de comer
  • I haven’t read any of the books that the teacher sent – No he leído ninguno de los libros que mandó el profesor
  • We haven’t seen any of the workers – No hemos visto a ninguno de los trabajadores

You cannot create a double negative Spanish sentence if the indefinite pronoun is placed before the verb.

For example:

  • No one came to the meeting – Nadie vino a la reunión
  • Nothing important happened today – Nada importante sucedió hoy
  • None of the guest arrived on time – Ningún invitado llegó a tiempo
  • None of my friends called me on my birthday – Ninguno de mis amigos me llamaron en mi cumpleaños
  • No woman should be mistreated – Ninguna mujer debe ser maltratada

Sidenote: Ningún and ninguno mean the same, and both used for a masculine noun.

When you use ningún, you should immediately use a masculine noun. But when you use ninguno, it doesn’t need to be accompanied by a noun, as ninguno works as a pronoun and implies that we know what are we talking about.

  • I don’t like any guy – No me gusta ningún chico
  • I don’t like any – No me gusta ninguno

3) Double Negatives In Spanish: Nunca And Tampoco

The last way to make double negative Spanish sentences is by using nunca, instead of no and adding an indefinite pronoun that we covered in section 2.

For example:

  • I have never told anyone my secrets – Nunca le he dicho a nadie mis secretos
  • There is never anything interesting on television – Nunca hay nada interesante en la televisión
  • I have never bought any leather clothes – Nunca he comprado ninguna ropa de cuero
  • No one comes to visit him – Nunca viene nadie a visitarlo
  • I have never read any of his books – Nunca he leído ninguno de sus libros

When we use tampoco to make double negative sentences, it is presumed, that there is already previous information, that we are responding

Remember that “tampoco” (either) it is opposite to “También” (also).

The simple formula is:

Nunca / Tampoco + verb + indefinite pronoun + complement

Let’s see these examples.

  • I don’t want anything either – Yo tampoco quiero nada
  • I don’t need any help with the exercise either – Yo tampoco necesito ninguna ayuda con el ejercicio
  • I don’t  know anyone in the building either – Yo tampoco conozco a nadie en el edificio
  • She didn’t eat anything either – Ella tampoco comió nada
  • I have not seen any UFO either – Yo tampoco he visto ningún OVNI

A negative expression you’re likely to hear is “nunca jamás”, which means “never ever”.

Just like in English, this expression is normally reserved for the feeling of regret, remorse or disgust about someone else’s behavior.

Let’s see some common examples:

  • Never ever do something like that to me again – Nunca jamás vuelvas a hacerme algo así
  • I drank too much alcohol yesterday, ¡I feel awful!. I will never ever do it again – Ayer tomé demasiado alcohol, me siento fatal, nunca jamás lo volveré a hacer

Triple Negative?

Although this is not very common, from time to time, you may come across what we call “triple” negative sentences, whereby three negatives adverbs or indefinite pronouns are used in the same sentence in order to emphasize the context.

These sentences normally contain an adverb or an indefinite pronoun + the phrase “nada a nadie”.

For example:

  • He/She didn’t say anything to anyone – No le dijo nada a nadie
  • He/She never buys nothing to anyone – Nunca le compra nada a nadie

Double Negatives In Spanish: Practice

Fill the blank space with the right negative word. Scroll down for the answers.

  1. No quiero ____ refresco ____ café. Solo agua por favor (I want neither soda nor coffee. Only water please)
  2. Nunca podré viajar a _____ lugar si no ahorro dinero (I will never be able to travel anywhere if I do not save money)
  3. No me gusta el color amarillo _____ (I do not like the yellow color either)
  4. No comería _____ insectos (I would never eat insects)
  5. No hay _____ mas relajante que ir a la playa (There’s nothing more relaxing than going to the beach)
  6. No hay _____ en el banco. ¡Que suerte! (There is nobody in the bank. Lucky!)
  7. Yo _____ tengo _____ problema en ayudarte (I have no problem in helping you either)
  8. No tengo _____ amiga soltera (I do not have any single friends)
  9. No conseguí _____ que me guste (I didn’t find any that I like)
  10. No podré cocinar _____ más con nueces, porque mi hijo es alérgico (I will not be able to cook with nuts anymore, because my son is allergic)
  11. Su computadora no funciona y la mía _____  (His computer doesn’t work and mine doesn’t either)

Answers

  1. No quiero ni refresco ni café. Solo agua por favor
  2. Nunca podré viajar a ningún lugar si no ahorro dinero
  3. No me gusta el color amarillo tampoco
  4. No comería jamás insectos
  5. No hay nada mas relajante que ir a la playa
  6. No hay nadie en el banco. ¡Que suerte!
  7. Yo Tampoco tengo ningún problema en ayudarte
  8. No tengo ninguna amiga soltera.
  9. No conseguí ninguno que me guste
  10. No podré cocinar nunca más con nueces, porque mi hijo es alérgico
  11. Su computadora no funciona y la mía tampoco
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