In Spanish, double negatives are sentences that contain two or more negative words that allows us to emphasize and deny certain information. Since in some languages this type of structure is incorrect, many people wonder how to use double negatives in Spanish.
In Spanish, double negatives are structures that contain two negative particles: the negation word no and an adverb of denial or an indefinite pronoun. These Spanish structures are not only used to deny certain information, but also to emphasize the negative character of a sentence.
Even though for many languages double negatives are grammatically incorrect, in Spanish, these types of structures are very common and necessary for correct communication. For that reason, in the following sections, we’ll explain what double negatives are and how you can use them properly.
In addition to this, we’ll provide you with several examples and structures so you know how to organize these types of sentences. By the end of this, using double negatives in Spanish will no longer be a problem for you.
What Are Spanish Double Negatives?
If you’re learning Spanish, you may already know that in order to build negative sentences you just need to add the word no to your sentence. These types of sentences are simple negation. But in Spanish, there’s also double negatives: sentences that contain more than one negative word.
Sandra no conoce a nadie en esta fiesta
Sandra doesn’t know anyone at this party
A nosotros no nos gusta ni el fútbol ni el básquetbol
We don’t like either football or basketball
As you can see in the previous examples, double negatives are formed with the word no and adverb of denial or negative indefinite pronoun. Just like simple negative sentences, double negative structures have the purpose of denying certain information, but they also emphasize it.
For many new and experienced Spanish learners, double negatives can be a challenging topic because they perceive them as contradicting structures. But we’re not talking about math where a negative times a negative equals positive.
In other words, if you see a Spanish sentence with two negative words, you’ll know that the speaker is only emphasizing his/her sentence.
Yo no quiero nada, gracias
I don’t want anything, thank you
How & When to Use Double Negatives in Spanish?
As its name suggests, Spanish double negatives are sentences that contain more than one negative word (duh). Most of the times, the word no will be one of those negative words and it will be accompanied by either:
- Adverbs of denial
- Negative indefinite pronouns
In the following sections, you’ll find structures and examples of how to use these words to build your double negatives sentences.
Double negatives with adverbs of denial
In Spanish, adverbs of denial have the sole purpose of intensifying your negative sentence. So, if you wanted, you could remove them and your sentence will be correct (won’t have the same dramatic effects though).
Here are some examples and the structure you need to use for this case.
[No] + [verb conjugated] + [adverb of denial]
No quiero volver a verte nunca
I don’t want to see you ever again
Matías no va a venir tampoco
Matías is not coming either
Laura no te quiere ver ni a ti ni a tus amigos
Laura doesn’t want to see either you or your friends
Después de aquel día, no volvimos a hablarnos jamás
After that day, we never spoke again
Take Note: Jamás and nunca can work together to form the expression nunca jamás which means ‘never again’ or ‘never ever’. This is another popular double negative expression whose purpose is to emphasize the sentence.
Nunca jamás te voy a perdonar lo que hiciste
I’ll never ever forgive you for what you did
As mentioned before, double negative sentences built with adverbs of denial have the purpose to emphasize the sentence. So, adding or removing these words won’t make your sentence incorrect.
No quiero volver a verte nunca I don’t want to see you ever again
No quiero volver a verte I don’t want to see you anymore
Double negatives with indefinite pronouns
Another way that you can build double negatives structures is by using indefinite pronouns in their negative form. On top of emphasizing the sentence, these negative indefinite pronouns are replacing a noun that expresses quantity.
In other words, indefinite pronouns are necessary to keep the meaning of the sentence, so you cannot remove them. Here is a basic phrase structure that you can use to build double negative sentences with these words:
[No] + [verb conjugated] + [indefinite pronoun]
¿Por qué no comiste nada?
Why didn’t you eat anything?
Nosotros no hablamos con nadie
We spoke with no one
La verdad no nos gusta nada del menú
To be honest, we don’t like anything from the menu
Tu hermana no quiere ninguna de estas blusas
Your sister doesn’t want any of these blouses
Patricia no conoce a ninguna de mis hermanas
Patricia doesn’t know any of my sisters
When it comes to negation in Spanish, many learners get confused because they come across with sentences that only contain indefinite pronouns such as:
Nadie vino a la fiesta de mi hermana
No one came to my sister’s party
Nada es imposible
Nothing is impossible
As established before, double negatives have the purpose of emphasizing your sentence. So if you want to make simple negative sentences, you will only use the indefinite pronoun. Why? Because it’s replacing an important part of the sentence: if you remove that information the sentence will be incomplete.
No matter if you choose to use indefinite pronouns with double negatives or simple negation, the negative word always needs to be placed before the verb.
[Negative word] + [verb conjugated]
Nadie vino a la fiesta de mi hermana
No one came to my sister’s party
So, if you use two negative words, one will go before the verb, and the other will follow it.
[No] + [verb conjugated] + [negative word]
No vino nadie a la fiesta de mi hermana
Nobody came to my sister’s party
Common Negative Words in Spanish
Here is a list with most common adverbs of denial and indefinite pronouns that you can use to build double negatives sentences in Spanish.
Adverbs of denial
Negative indefinite pronouns
Double negatives are common structures that we use in Spanish on a daily basis. However, since these sentences are grammatically incorrect in other languages, a lot of Spanish learners struggle to understand how to use them properly.
For that reason, in this article, we discussed what double negatives are and the rules that you need to follow when using them. Here is a quick summary of what we’ve learned:
Double negatives in Spanish:
- Have the purpose to emphasize a negative sentence
- Work with two negative particles: no and an adverb of denial/indefinite pronoun
- Adverbs of denial are intensifiers, so they can be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence.
- Indefinite pronouns are replacing a noun, so they cannot be removed because they will affect the meaning of the sentence.
- When having two negative particles in a sentence, one word goes before the verb and the other one is placed immediately after the verb.
- When using one negative particle, the negative word always goes before the verb.
Yo quiero nada I want nothing
Yo no quiero nada I want nothing
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how to use double negatives in Spanish. ¡Buena suerte!
Related Resource: What’s the difference between ningún and ninguno?