What is a Double Negative? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 What Is a Double Negative?
  • 0:39 Examples of Double Negatives
  • 1:18 Avoiding Double Negatives
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara has a PhD in Marketing & Management

Double negatives are commonly used in communication and can lead to misunderstandings. Learning to eliminate double negatives can help you express yourself more clearly and ensure others understand your meaning.

What Is a Double Negative?

A double negative is using two negative words or phrases in a sentence. Not only does it sound awkward, it isn't actually grammatically correct. Additionally, it weakens the message and has less of an impact than using one correct negative statement.

If you pair a negative word or prefix with a common negative word, you can make the sentence a double negative. When two negatives are used, the sentence actually becomes a positive statement. You're essentially saying the opposite of what you actually mean. Using double negatives is confusing and often leads to misunderstandings. When expressing a thought, it's best to avoid double negatives.

Examples of Double Negatives

There are common incorrect uses of double negatives:

  • There ain't no…
  • I don't got no time.
  • I can't find my wallet nowhere.
  • There aren't no people coming over.

Each of these statements sound confusing and disjointed. By making basic changes, the message is clear and the speaker makes a greater impact with his or her words.

  • Changing 'There ain't no drinks' to 'There are no drinks' flows and is more clear.
  • Rewording 'I don't got no time' to 'I don't have any time' is a smooth statement.
  • Instead of saying, 'I can't find my wallet nowhere', try 'I can't find my wallet anywhere.'
  • Saying 'There aren't no people coming over' is less effective than 'There are no people coming over.'

Avoiding Double Negatives

There are two common types of double negatives: double words and prefixes. The examples we looked at earlier use double words as the double negative. Words like no, wasn't, hardly, not, don't, seldom, and none are commonly used in double negatives. If you find yourself using double negative words, it's time to change how you word your sentences.


  • There are no hardly sales.
  • None of the songs seldom play.
  • I don't like none.

Adding a prefix to a word can make it a negative. Common prefixes that make a word negative include ir-, non-, un-, dis- or in-. Some examples include:

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