Grammar and Style: Double Negatives
It takes only one negative word or contraction to communicate a negative idea. If you use two negatives, they logically cancel each other out, resulting in a positive statement.
Double Negative: I won’t never approve it; logically means I may at some time approve it.
If your intention is to make a negative statement, you should not use a double negative. Instead, use only one negative word or contraction.
Correct Negative Form: I will never approve it. Or I won’t ever approve it.
Most negative words start with n-no, not (often contracted to n’t), never, none, no one, nothing, nobody, and nowhere, for example. A few other words, such as hardly, barely, and scarcely, are also negatives.
Double Negatives Worksheet
Negative words: no, not, nobody, nothing, none, never, hardly, scarcely, barely, only. Using two negatives in the same sentence gives the opposite meaning, but it does the job awkwardly. Avoid double negatives!
In these sentences, underline each correct word in parentheses.
1. She couldn’t eat (anything, nothing).
2. I didn’t see (nothing, anything).
3. We (could, couldn’t) hardly see through the fog.
4. She did not have (anything, nothing) to read.
5. I could not see (no, any) way to help.
6. I cannot find my money (anywhere, nowhere).
7. You (can, cannot) scarcely recognize her.
8. The children do not need (no, any) candy.
9. We barely had (any, no) money.
10. William (could, couldn’t) hardly wait.
11. Jim was not carrying (no, any) packages.
12. The tear in his shirt (was, was not) barely noticeable.
13. The lecturer did not say (anything, nothing) interesting.
14. Of all the cars I tried, I did not buy (none, any).
15. The baby (cannot, can) hardly walk yet.
16. Isn’t there (nothing, anything) you want for Christmas?
17. Haven’t you (any, no) size 10 dresses?
18. We did not meet (nobody, anybody) at Jane’s party.
19. I could not find my purse (nowhere,...