What Does Negation Mean?
Negation is the act of negating or denying a word, sentence, or clause by using special words or particles. This is done to express that something is untrue or to deny something. Words that are used to indicate negation are called negative markers, and there are many ways to use them to negate a word, phrase, clause, or sentence.
Negative Markers: Types
There are different negative markers that can be used for negation:
- Negative adverbs such as: not, neither, barely, neither/nor, hardly, rarely, never, etc.
- Negative determiners such as: no, neither
- Negative pronouns such as: nothing, nobody, no one, none, etc.
Negation Using Adverbs
There are some adverbs in English that carry a negative meaning and using them in affirmative sentences makes the whole sentence negative without the need to use negative verbs. The most important adverb that is used as a negative marker is 'not'. Other negative adverbs are hardly, little, never, only, scarcely, and seldom. Take a look at some examples:
In this example, 'hardly' means almost never.
The term 'no' is used as a determiner and a negative marker in affirmative sentences. The determiner 'no' can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns, but when used with countable nouns, it is typically followed by plural countable nouns. Here are the examples:
Negation in Sentence
The negative markers are usually placed before the word they negate. We typically use negative adverbs to negate verbs and adjectives, and negative determiners to negate nouns. The negative pronouns are already negative and replace nouns in sentences.
How to use 'Not'
With 'To Be' Verbs
If the sentence contains 'to be' verbs, we just put 'not' before the predicate noun or adjective. Usually, in this way 'not' appears after the 'to be' verb. For example:
With Auxiliary Verb 'Have'
If the sentence contains the auxiliary verb 'have', we place 'not' right after the different forms of have (have, had, has) and before the main verb participle. Pay attention to the examples:
I promise, I
[forms of have] + not + [participle]
As you know, 'have' can be both an auxiliary verb and an action verb. Do not confuse them. The action verb 'have' needs 'do' for negation, just like other action verbs.
They do not
With Modal Verbs
If the sentence contains modal verbs like 'should', 'can', 'must', etc. we should place 'not' after the modal verb and before the main verb. For example:
[modal verb] + not + verb (bare infinitive)
With Other Verbs
If the sentence contains any other verb than the ones already mentioned, we should use the auxiliary verb 'do' to negate it. Take a look at the examples:
How to Use Neither or 'Neither...Nor'
'Neither...nor' is the negative form of 'either...or' and it is used in the same way. As already pointed out, 'neither...nor' is already negative so we do not need to use 'not' or any other negative markers in the sentence. Let's see some examples:
If we want to use 'neither' without 'nor' we should place it before the noun to express the meaning 'not this one and not the other one'.
We can also use 'neither' as an adverb. Take a look at the following examples:
I don't like to go to parties and
She cannot sleep and
It can also be used as a pronoun. For example:
I bought two dresses but
She sang two songs,
Forming Negative Words
To negate a word, we can use prefixes such as 'de-', 'dis-', and 'un-', as well as 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 affirmative. Check out the examples:
With the Verbs 'Wish' and 'Hope'
The verbs 'hope' and 'wish' are typically not negated, and instead, the sentence that follows them is often in the negative form. However, this is not always the case, as sometimes both sentences can be affirmative. Check out the examples:
In this example, both statements are used affirmatively.
Negative Interrogative Clauses
To make negative questions all you have to do is 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 some examples:
Negative Non-finite Clauses
To negate non-finite clauses all you have to do is add 'not' before the non-finite clause or use an adverb before the non-finite clause. Negative pronouns or determiners can also be used to make a negative non-finite clause. Check out the sentences:
In this example, a negative determiner is used to negate the non-finite clause.
Imperatives are non-finite clauses because they are made of bare infinitives. To negate imperatives all you have to do is add the phrase 'do not' (also contracted as don't) to the beginning of the imperative sentence. You can also use never as a negative marker for imperative sentences. Remember that you cannot use negative pronouns to make negative imperatives. Here are the examples:
We can use negation to emphasize something by using 'at all' or 'whatsoever'. They almost mean the same, but 'whatsoever' is stronger. For example:
The place had no light
We can also use negation to be more polite at times by emphasizing. For example:
Do you mind if I use your bathroom? –
Have I given you any trouble? –no, none
'Ain’t' is used in non-standard English as the negative form of the verb to be in the present form and also the negative form of the verb to have. Check out the examples:
When we use a negative marker with another negative word in the same sentence or when we use a negative marker with a negative verb, a double negative is formed. Sometimes native speakers use double negation in everyday English, but it is not grammatically correct. Check out the examples:
Negation is the act of negating a sentence, using negative markers or negative structures. Here are the important negative categories.
- negative adverbs
- negative pronouns
- negative determiner
- What Does Negation Mean?
- Negation in Sentence
- How to Use Neither or 'Neither...Nor'
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