Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Can you use double negatives in English?

You may have heard that double negatives are incorrect grammar.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn that in this case, the double negative is correct.

Listen in and learn why!

We will show you how to use this technique like a native English speaker.

No One Doesn’t Have

What do you think someone needs to do at least once every day?

It can be going for a walk and stretching your limbs before starting the day.

This can be very good for your health.

No one doesn’t have a few minutes to go for a quick walk!

This sentence has a double negative.

Though you may have heard that you shouldn’t use double negatives, this is not incorrect grammar!

In today’s episode, we discuss when you should use a double negative.

An All Ears English listener sent a question regarding this.

“I am proudly a big fan of yours. I’ve been listening to you guys for two years and I’m jonesing for the coming programs. But I think I’m a bit puzzled now. I was listening to the app and there was a place where you said “no one has three minutes to sit down with TED talks.” But I know you meant that it was easy for someone to find three minutes to listen to TED talks. It’s so random, but my question is, was it a mere slip of the tongue, or is there a rule behind it? Since it’s kinda diverse, I believe. I appreciate it if you would make me feel better again.”

Mustani

Without the context, many would say double negatives are not correct grammar.

Lindsay and Aubrey share with you a breakdown of how to do this.

High-level grammar

Native English speakers use double negatives to emphasize something or make a point.

You have to remember that intonation is everything when doing this.

If you don’t use the right intonation, people may misunderstand you.

We would want to use double negatives with stative verbs.

Stative verbs are used to express feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

Examples of these are:

  • “Like…”
  • “I think…”
  • “As I understand…”
  • “I love…”
  • “I feel…”
  • “That seems…”

In a sentence, you can say “No one doesn’t like a sunny day!”

This can be said when you’re outside and it’s a good day.

You can emphasize that the day is really good and you can go out and enjoy yourself.

Another way to use double negatives is with ‘have.’

An example of this is:

  • “No one doesn’t have time for a few minutes of meditation.”
  • “No one doesn’t have a few dollars for a manicure.”

Aubrey and Lindsay aren’t fond of having manicures and pedicures.

They find it nice but it’s not for them.

Aubrey is very ticklish so she doesn’t like getting pedicures.

Don’t overuse double negatives

You should not use double negatives all the time.

These should be reserved for when you’re trying to put emphasis on something.

You can use it with either the verb ‘have’ or with a stative verb.

When we use it with ‘have,’ it’s exclusively to talk about time or money.

We wouldn’t say the following sentences to emphasize.

  • “No one doesn’t like me.”
  • “No one doesn’t have a car.”

Not for business English

In the wrong context, this could cause offense.

Therefore, you want to avoid using it in business English.

Doing this in formal English may sound condescending.

Here is a sample roleplay:

Lindsay: I don’t want this task.

Aubrey: It should only take you five minutes. No one doesn’t have five minutes.

Even if you’re using this in a playful way, it still sounds like you are criticizing the person.

You may make them feel that they are not working hard enough.

Therefore, you shouldn’t use it at work.

Instead, use this when you’re having small talk with friends or family.

It’s okay to use double negatives in informal settings.

Roleplay

Here is a quick roleplay to show how to use double negatives.

Aubrey: I haven’t showered in six days. I just don’t have time.

Lindsay: Aubrey! No one doesn’t have a few minutes for personal hygiene.

Aubrey: Okay that’s fair, but how do people have time to do their hair and put on makeup every day? That, I just don’t have time for.

Lindsay: How long does it take? I can do it in three minutes. No one doesn’t have three minutes!

Takeaway

Though this may seem like incorrect grammar due to the double negative, it’s not!

Using double negatives is great for adding emphasis and creating a positive way to deliver your message.

Combining the correct grammar with proper intonation makes an interesting conversation.

You are able to add a more interesting way to deliver your thoughts and opinions.

But, of course, you should use double negatives in the right setting.

It is not advisable to use it in business English.

You can make your conversation more interesting when talking to friends and family.

Sound more like a native English speaker by trying to use double negatives in your informal conversations today.

Do you think you can use a double negative when talking to your friends?

Share an example sentence in the comments below.

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