Negative Pro-forms

Negative pro-forms are special function words that we use when we want to refer to the absence of people, things, or places.

Negative Pro-forms in English Grammar

What Are Negative Pro-forms?

Negative pro-forms are used when we want to refer to the absence (non-existence) of people, things, or places.

Negative Words

The English no-series words and some other words are considered inherently negative (also called inherent negative universal), which means they can make a sentence negative on their own.

Determiner Pronoun Adverb
no nobody nowhere (place)
no one never (time)
nothing no way (manner)


There are some uncommon negative words that are rarely used. Here is the list:

  • nowhence (adverb of source)
  • nowhither (adverb of purpose)
  • nowhen (adverb of time)
  • nowise (adverb of manner)

Negative Words in Positive Statements

Negative Words in Positive Statements

Negative words are inherently negative, that is why they do not need another negative maker in a sentence. We use 'no one', 'nobody', 'nothing', and 'nowhere' with a singular verb. For example:

Nobody came.

Nothing happens in this town.

I knocked on the door but no one answered.

I have nowhere to live.

Negative Words in Negative Statements

Do not use another negative word such as 'not' with the negative pro-forms.

Nobody didn't come. → Nobody came.

You shouldn't smoke nowhere in the building. → You shouldn't smoke anywhere in the building.

Negative Words: Number

We cannot use 'of' after 'nobody'. We use 'none of' when talking about a group of people. For example:

Nobody of them saw him. → None of them saw him.

When we want to talk about two people, we use 'neither (of)'.

Neither of his parents went to the wedding.

We use 'none of' before a plural noun or pronoun and a singular verb.

None of us is able to escape the consequences of our actions.

In informal English, a plural verb is often used after 'none of'.

None of us care what happens to him.

Negative Pro-forms in Questions

We cannot use negative pro-forms in questions.

Is nobody here? → Is anybody here?

Does no one know the answer? → Does anyone know the answer?

Has he never been to Australia? → Has he ever been to Australia?

When we use 'nothing' and 'nobody', the sentence is positive, but the meaning of the statement is negative. So, we need to use positive question tags:

There's nothing new about this, is it?


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Assertive Pro-forms

An assertive pro-form is a type of word that stands in for another word, phrase, clause, or sentence where the truth of a positive statement is asserted.

Non-assertive Pro-forms

Non-assertive Pro-forms refer to a group of words or phrases that refer to specific things/persons, but it is not important to mention what.

Universal Pro-forms

Universal pro-forms are special function words or expressions to refer to the total number of something. In this lesson, you will learn more about them.

Alternative Pro-forms

Alternative means 'choice.' When we have many choices, we talk about one, another, and the other. These words signal the alternatives.
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