Negatives / La negación

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1. Definition
2. Spanish negatives
3. Position of negative particles
4. Other uses of no

1. Definition

A negative sentence denies something:

Ese coche no es rojo.                                 That car is not red.                         

2. Spanish negatives

Spanish negatives are quite different from English negatives:

·         No auxiliary is required: the adverb no is enough.

·          Double negatives are very usual and sometimes required.

Simple negatives are formed by putting the adverb no before the verb. Unlike English, this negative particle comes always before the verb form, even a compound one:

No voy.                                                     I’m not going.

No he visto a Sandra.                                I haven’t seen Sandra.

Él no dijo nada.                                        He didn’t say a word.

¿Vienes? No.                                              Are you coming? No, I’m not.

As you can see in the last example, the adverb no is used in negative short answers. Unlike English, there is no need of adding the subject and auxiliary verb.

There are other negative particles (pronouns, adjectives or adverbs) that can be used on their own or with no, depending on the construction of the sentence. Remember that adjectives and pronouns agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to. The most common negatives are:

     Type               Particle                         Examples

nadie* (if it comes after the verb, no is required).
Nadie me quiere - No me quiere nadie /        Nobody loves me.
nada  (if it comes after the verb, no is required. This is the most common place).
Nada es para siempre / Nothing lasts forever.
No hay nada / There’s nothing.
nunca  (if it comes after the verb, no is required).
Ana nunca llama - Ana no llama nunca  / Ana never calls.
jamás (if it comes after the verb, no is required). Rarely used.
No vuelvas jamás / Never come back.
Nunca jamás / Never ever.
pronoun/ adjective
ninguno, ningún**, ninguna, ningunas (if they come after the verb, no is required).
No hay ninguna maleta / There is no suitcase.
Ningún jefe viene por aquí / No boss comes here.

No voy. ¡Ni yo! / I’m not going. Nor do I!
¡Ni siquiera yo! / Not even me!
No quiero (ni) regalos ni dinero/ I don’t want any gifts or money.

*nadie usually requires the preposition a when it functions as an object of the verb:

No veo a nadie.                                 I can’t see anyone.

**ningún (masculine singular) is used when it acts as an adjective and comes before the noun:

No hay ningún problema.                    There is no problem at all.

More examples:

Por favor, no me llames.                     Please, don’t call me.

No quiero nada.                                  I don’t want anything.

Ni me llames ni me escribas.               Don’t call me or write to me.

Ingrid nunca llora.                              Ingrid never cries.

Nadie es imprescindible.                     Nobody is indispensable.

No he llamado a nadie.                       I haven’t called anyone.

No has comprado ningún libro.            You haven’t bought any book.

No me sorprende nada.                       Nothing ever surprises me.     


3. Position of negative particles. 

No is placed before the verb, even the auxiliary. Personal pronouns acting as objects are placed between no and the verb:

¿Has visto a Sandra? No, no la he visto.   
Have you seen Sandra? No, I haven’t seen her.

Other words can be placed immediately after no ( or after the verb) if they are negated by it:

Las cosas no siempre son lo que parecen / Las cosas no son siempre lo que parecen.

Things are not always what they seem.

Other negative particles can appear before or after the verb. But if they come after the verb, no is required:

Nadie vino / No vino nadie.                                  No one came.

4.  Other uses of no

No is very often used to negate adjectives or adverbs. These are sometimes preceded by muy (very). The expression “no muy” can be replaced by “nada”, a bit more emphatic:

¿Cómo estás? No muy bien nada bien.      
How are you? Not very well / Not well at all.

Es una sustancia no adictiva.     
It’s a non-addictive substance.

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