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Double Negatives

Average: 3.6 (11 votes)

Ok, so you are here to learn some English. Well, I am going to throw you a curve ball (do something unexpected).

Sometimes, we can use mathematics to help us with our English. If math is not your cup of tea (you have no interest), don't sign out yet. I promise I'll make it worth your while.

What is -2 x -3 (negative 2 times negative 3)? I have a feeling you all got the correct answer which 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.

The problem is that double negatives are rarely used in English. The general rule to follow is: DO NOT USE DOUBLE NEGATIVES, USE POSITIVES.

A much better sentence would be: "I have something." which is a positive statement. Have and something are both positive words, and a positive times a positive equals a positive, +2 x +3 = +6.

 By Thomas Williams

Thomas Williams is a teacher at EC San Diego

Link: Irregular Verbs

Choose the correct word to make the sentence negative:


  • 1. No one ___ come to your home if you had a party.

  • 2. I am sure they won't believe ___ of them.

  • 3. He was put in jail even though his guilt was ___ proven.

  • 4. I didn't do ___.

  • 5. I have never seen ___ like it.

  • 6. Steve didn't want to go ___.

  • 7. ___ Steve nor Bill wanted to go.

  • 8. Unfortunately, we never ___ find the part we needed.

  • 9. I do not have ___ clue.

  • 10. We don't have ___ money