Any or no ? Double negatives? πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Do we use any or no for negative sentences?

My students often ask me when to use any or no and ask what the problem is with double negatives, so let’s look at some examples and explanations.

Take a look at the following sentences:

These instructions don’t make any sense to me. βœ… ( correct ) NOTE: “Any” is used here as the verb is negative.

These instructions make no sense to me. βœ… (correct ) NOTE: “No” is used here as the verb is positive.

These instructions don’t make no sense to me. ❌ ( incorrect ) NOTE: “No” is used with a negative verb (do not) which means there are two negatives in this sentence.

So, why is the last one incorrect?
I hear my students say sentences like this and maybe in some languages it’s correct , but it isn’t in English.
When we study science or mathematics, we learn that two negatives make a positive or in other words, the two negatives cancel each other out.
Well, think of this when you form sentences in English.

Let’s look at a few examples:

He did not abide by none of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation.❌

In the first clause in this sentence there are the words not ( the not makes the verb negative ) and none which are both negative markers.

He did not mention nothing to me about the meeting. ❌
In this sentence, the two negative markers are not and nothing.

So, because the two negative markers cancel each other out, how do we fix these sentences? Let’s take a look.

He did not abide by none of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation.❌

➑️ He did not abide by any of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation ( we use “any” because the verb is negative ) or ➑️ He abided by none of the rules and so he was dismissed from the organisation. (we use β€œnone” because the verb is positive)

He did not mention nothing to me about the meeting.

➑️ He did not mention anything to me about the meeting (we use “anything” because the verb is negative) or ➑️ He mentioned nothing to me about the meeting. (we use “nothing” because the verb is positive)

So, next time you want to make a negative sentence in English, think about whether the verb is negative and then you can use β€˜ any, anything, anyone etc.’ or if the verb is positive, you can use β€˜ no, nothing, nobody etc. β€˜

Please remember to be careful not to use double negatives. πŸ˜‰

Published by rachelkimschultz

I have been in the ESL industry for over 25 years , first starting out teaching English in Japan after I graduated from university . I have taught English in Australia for about 20 years to many different nationalities which I love and I have also taught TESOL Certificate IV so I am a teacher trainer as well. I have worked as an academic manager for about 8 years, managing, training and supporting teachers. I love teaching all levels of English and enjoy teaching TOEIC ,IELTS and Cambridge Exam (PET, FCE and CAE) preparation courses.

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