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In the News: Double Negatives

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Trump Double Negatives


Double negatives have been all over the news lately. A double negative is defined as using two negative words in the same sentence, which results in a positive meaning.

Double negatives are common in informal speech but should generally be avoided because they are confusing.

If this is hard for you to understand, think about math. What is -2 x -3 (negative 2 times negative 3)? The correct answer is +6 (positive 6). How can two negatives equal a positive?

Think about this: “I have nothing.” Have is a positive word, and nothing is a negative word. A positive times a negative equals a negative, +2 x -3 = -6. Therefore, the sentence is negative.

If I say: “I do not have nothing,” do not changes the word have to a negative, and the word nothing remains negative. A negative times a negative equals a positive, -2 x -3 = +6. Therefore the sentence is positive.


Here are some examples of sentences that use double negatives and how to correct them:

“I don’t want to see nobody today.” should be “I don’t want to see anyone today.”

“I don’t have no time for that.” should be “I don’t have time for that.”

“I can’t get no satisfaction.” should be “I can’t get any satisfaction.”

“I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.” should be “I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia.”

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