Competitive Exams - English
Confusing usage words part eight
In mathematics, a negative number times a negative number yields a positive number.
Similarly, in grammar, when two negative words are used (where only one is needed), the
negatives cancel each other out, making the idea positive and not negative as intended. In
the sentence, ‘‘I cannot get no respect from them,’’ the two negative words, cannot and no,
cancel each other out. Thus, the sentence is really saying, ‘‘I can get respect from them,’’
a far different thought from what seems to be the sentence’s original intention. Had the
sentence read, ‘‘I cannot get respect from them,’’ or ‘‘I can get no respect from them,’’
the meaning is quite different from that when both negative words are included in the
Here is another example of this double negative situation. Notice the different meanings
when the negative words are included or deleted.
Two negative words in the sentence: We didn’t have no disappointments.
One negative word in the sentence:We didn’t have disappointments.
One negative word in the sentence:We had no disappointments.
Practical English Grammar - Notes
4. the participle and participial phrase
6. subject complements predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives
15. compound subject and compound predicate
32. singular and plural nouns and pronouns
33. the noun adjective pronoun question
39. the infinitive and infinitive phrase
42. Parentheses Ellipsis Marks and Dashes
47. Periods Question Marks and Exclamation Marks
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