Negatives - English Grammar Notes

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  • Negatives are words that mean “no” or “not”. These words are adverbs.


    She has no more work.
    There are none left.

Other common negatives

no one

The combination of a verb and not also form a contraction which is also a negative.
The letters 
n’t stand for not.


 - They won’t be able to attend the funeral.
- He couldn’t make a speech.

Double Negatives:

  • A sentence should have only one negative. Using double negatives in a sentence is usually incorrect. A double negative is the use of two negative words together when only one is needed.


    Incorrect   Correct
    We don’t need no more problems. 
    She hasn’t bought nothing. 
    Mark hasn’t no homework.
    We don’t need any more problems.
    She hasn’t bought anything.
    Mark hasn’t any homework. Or
    Mark has no homework.

  • When you use contractions like don’t and hasn’tdo not use negative words after them. Instead, use words like anyanything, and ever.

    We don’t have any work.
    He hasn’t any work.
    won’t ever respond to the summons.

  • Other negatives include hardlybarely, and scarcely. They are never used after contractions like haven’t and didn’t.


    Incorrect                                                            Correct
    We couldn’t hardly continue with the work.           We could hardly continue with the work.
    The child can’t barely walk.                                  The child can barely walk.

Exercise 1

Write the following sentences choosing the correct negatives from the ones given in brackets.

  1. They (have, haven’t) nothing to eat.
  2. Isn’t (anyone, no one) at home?
  3. Didn’t you (ever, never) swim in that river?
  4. There isn’t (anybody, nobody) weeding the farm.
  5. Ann and Martin haven’t (anywhere, nowhere) to sleep.
  6. Our friends (had, hadn’t) none of the fun.
  7. Isn’t (anybody, nobody) watching Tahidi High?
  8. Hasn’t (anyone, no one) thought of washing the utensils?
  9. Tabby (hasn’t, has) had no luck.
  10. We haven’t (ever, never) tried.


Exercise 1

  1. have   
  2. anyone 
  3. ever
  4. anybody
  5. anywhere
  6. had
  7. anybody
  8. anyone
  9. has
  10. ever
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