What Are Double Negatives? (with Examples)A double negative is usually produced by combining the negative form of a verb (e.g., cannot, did not, have not) with a negative pronoun (e.g., nothing, nobody), a negative adverb (e.g., never, hardly) or a negative conjunction (e.g., neither/nor).
Examples of Double NegativesHere are some examples of double negatives:
- I didn't see nothing.
- I did not have neither her address nor her phone number.
- It wasn't uninteresting.
- She is not unattractive.
- "He didn't see nothing." = "He saw something."
- "She claims she has not seen neither Paul nor John." = "She claims she has seen either Paul or John."
- "She is not unattractive." = "She is attractive." (Of course, not unattractive could also mean average looking. It depends on context.)
A Double Negative Is Usually an ErrorA double negative is usually an error because it portrays a positive sense when a negative one is intended. In reality, readers nearly always understand the intended meaning, but a writer's credibility is always damaged when a double-negative error is made.
"The secret to being a likeable grammarian is knowing when to shut up."
What about a Triple Negative?You do not see triple negatives often, but here is a witty one:
- I cannot say that I do not disagree with you. (This quote by Groucho Marx is a triple negative. If you follow it through logically, you'll find it means I disagree with you. Genius!)