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

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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