Negation is the act of making a term, phrase, or clause negative or opposite. In this article, you will learn how to make negations.

What Is Negation in English Grammar?

What Does Negation Mean?

Negation is to negate a word a sentence or a clause by using special words, or particles. Simply is to show something is untrue or denying something with certain words called negatives. There are many ways to negate a word, phrase, clause or a sentence.

Types of Negative Words

We have different negative words to form negations:

  • Negative adverbs such as: not, neither, barely, neither/nor, hardly, rarely, never…
  • Negative determiners such as: no, neither
  • Negative pronouns such as: nothing, nobody, no one, none…

Negation in Adverbs

There are some adverbs in English that carry a negative meaning and using them in affirmative sentences makes the whole sentence negative and there is no need to use negative verbs anymore. The most important adverb that is used as a negative marker is 'not'. Other negative adverbs are hardly, little, never, only, scarcely, and seldom.

Hardly she speaks to me.

In this example, it means almost never.

I do not like him anymore.

There's hardly any milk.

I hardly know him.


Usually, when these adverbs are used at the beginning of a sentence they make an inversion between the subject and the verb, but this does not always happen, only when there is an auxiliary in a sentence there is an inversion as well. Check out the examples:

Never have I experienced this before.

Negative Determiners

The term 'no' is used as a determiner and also as a negative marker in affirmative sentences. The term 'no' can be used with either countable or uncountable nouns, but usually when it comes to countable nouns, 'no' is followed by plural countable nouns. Here are the examples:

No butter is added to the bread.

I received no mails.

Negative Pronouns

Negative pronouns are words such as nobody, no one, none, neither, nor, etc, that are used with negative meaning as negative markers in affirmative sentences. Here are the examples:

Nobody likes the teacher.

Nothing is more important than you.

Negation in Sentence

Mostly the negative marker places before the word it tends to negate. Usually to negate verbs and adjectives we should use "negative adverbs", to negate nouns we should use "negative determiners", and about the negative pronouns like no one or nobody we can see that they are already negative so we don't need to negate them again.

How to use "Not"

To Be Verbs

If our sentence includes ''to be'' verbs we just put "not" in front of the predicate noun or adjective. Usually this way will place "not" after the to be verb.

She is not her sister.

He was not ready to go to the party yet.

Auxiliary Verb "Have"

If our sentence includes auxiliary verb "have", we will do the same as we do with all of the perfect tenses, we will place "not" right after the different forms of have (have, had, has) and before the main verb participle.

He has not been around lately.

They have not cooked dinner for their guests.

I promise, I won't let you down.

[forms of have] + not + [participle]


As you know we have auxiliary verb have and action verb have, let's remember to not confuse them.
The action verb "have" uses "do" just like other action verbs.

They do not have anything to do.

He doesn't have the books.

If our sentence includes modal verbs like should, can, must and so on, we should place "not" after the modal verb and before the main verb.

They cannot go out.

She should not stay out so late.

He must not go to his friend's sleepover.

[modal verb] + not + verb (bare infinitive)

All the Other Verbs

If our sentence includes any other verb rather than what we mentioned we should use the auxiliary verb "do" to negate it.

He does not sleep well at nights.

She does not play this game well.

I do not do the dishes.

How to use "Neither-Nor" or Neither Without Nor

As you can see "neither-nor" is the negative form of "either-or" and it is also used in the same way. As we said "neither-nor" is already in its negative form so we do not need to use "not" or any other negative markers in our sentence. Let's see some examples:

Neither my dad nor my mom lets me stay at my friend's sleepover.

Neither the red dress nor the green one suits me.

If we want to use "neither" without the "nor" we should place it before the noun to show the meaning of "not this one or the others".

Neither dress fits me.

Neither bed is comfy.

We could also use "neither" as adverb like the following examples:

I don't like to go to parties and neither does my best friend.

She cannot sleep and neither can her sister.

It can be used as a pronoun too, let's see:

I bought two dresses but neither fitted.

She sang two songs, neither sounded good.

Forming Negative Words

To negative a word, we can use the prefixes such as: de-, dis-, un- and suffixes such as –less. Here are some examples:




Verbs of Uncertainty

Verbs such as 'think,' 'believe,' 'suppose', etc. which imply a feeling of uncertainty are usually used negatively and the sentence after them is usually an affirmative sentence. Check out the examples:

He never believed I've left him. → (Not 'He believed I have never left him.')

With the Verbs 'Wish' and 'Hope'

The verbs 'hope' and 'wish' are not usually negated and instead, the sentence after them is usually in negative form, but not always. Sometimes both sentences can be affirmative. Check out the examples:

I wish, Harry does not get in trouble.

I hope no one gets hurt.

I hope I will pass the exam.

In this example, both statements are used affirmatively.

Negative Interrogative Clauses

To make negative questions all you have to do is to negate the auxiliary verb of the question. You can also use negative pronouns or adverbs in echo questions as a negative interrogative clause. Here are the examples:

No one is here?

Weren't you at the party?

Why didn't you call me?

Negative Non-finite Clauses

To negate non-finite clauses all you have to do is to add 'not' before the non-finite clause or you can also use an adverb before non-finite clauses. Using negative pronouns or determiners is also possible to make a negative non-finite clause. Check out the sentences:

Not to disturb you, but who is coming again?

Hardly cooked well, the steak was immediately taken back to the kitchen.

Making no excuse, he left the apartment.

In this example, a negative determiner is used to negate the non-finite clause.

Negative Imperatives

Imperatives are kind of non-finite clauses because they are made of bare infinitives. To negate imperatives all you have to do is to add the phrase 'do not' (also contracted as don't) at the beginning of the imperative sentence, or you can also use never as a negative marker for imperative sentences. Remember using negative pronouns to make negative imperatives is not correct. Here are the examples:

Not making a single noise, he entered the room.

Never cheat on your spouse.

No smoking!

Don't drive fast.


We can use negation to emphasis on something by using "at all" and "whatsoever", they almost have the same meaning, but "whatsoever" is stronger.

There is nothing at all left to say.

The place had no light whatsoever.

We can also use negation to be more polite at times by emphasis.

Do you mind if I use your bathroom? – not at all.

Have I given you any trouble? –no none whatsoever dear!

Non-standard English

'Ain’t' is the negative form of the verb to be in the present form and also it is the negative form of the verb to have as well. Check out the examples:

I ain't in love with you. → I am not in love with you.

She ain't trying enough. → I isn't trying enough.

When we use a negative marker with another one in the same sentence or when we use a negative marker with a negative verb a double negation is created. Sometimes in everyday English native speakers use double negations, but it is not grammatically correct. Check out the examples:

✗ I won't never talk to him again. → ✓ I will never talk to him again.

✗ I don't see nobody. → ✓ I see nobody.


Negation is the act of negating a sentence, using negative markers or negative structures. Here are the important negative categories.

Negative Markers

  • negative adverbs
  • negative pronouns
  • negative determiner


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