What is a Double Negative? - Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Are Misplaced Modifiers and Dangling Modifiers?

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 What Is a Double Negative?
  • 0:39 Examples of Double Negatives
  • 1:18 Avoiding Double Negatives
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

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.

Examples:

  • 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:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support