Negation for intermediate learners

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 Is Negation?

Negation refers to the process of expressing the opposite or negative meaning of a word or sentence. It is used to deny, negate, or contradict information that has been previously stated or assumed.

Negative Markers

To be able to negate clauses and sentences, we must first learn about negative markers. There are three groups of negative markers in English as follows:

Now, let us see how each group functions:


The most commonly-used negative pronouns are nobody, none, nothing, nowhere, neither, etc. Take a look at the following examples to see how they are used in sentences:

None of it matters right now.

Nothing hurts more than a betrayal by your close friend.

Nobody is in the class.


Keep in mind that we use these negative markers in affirmative sentences. Take a look at the following example:

Nobody is at home at this hour.

(We don't say 'Nobody isn't at home...')


Adverbs can also be used to negate the meaning of sentences. The most common negative adverb is 'not'. However, there are others such as 'hardly', 'scarcely', 'never', etc. Let us examine some of them in the examples below:

Hardly has she listened to what I say.

I never drink tea.

My colleague seldom attends seminars.


The first thing to remember when using negative adverbs is that they are used with affirmative verbs. The second important point to remember is that when they are used at the beginning of the sentence, the subject and the verb switch places. Analyze the following example:

Barely had I come to a clear conclusion.

(Not Barely I had...)

Now, let us see how we can use some of them with different clauses:

Negative Auxiliary Verbs

We can simply negate auxiliary verbs by adding 'not' to them. Study the following examples:

She is wearing those clothes. → She isn't wearing those clothes.

They are coming to kill me. → They aren't coming to kill me.

As you can see, the main verb is not affected.

Negative Interrogative Clauses

In order to negate questions, all you have to do is either negate the auxiliary verb or use a negative marker. Take a look at the following examples:

Don't you see we're in the middle of a crisis?

Nobody has ever been to that play?

Here, because there is a negative marker in the question, the verb is affirmative.

Negative Nouns

We can also use the negative marker 'no' to negate nouns. Look at the following examples:

There are no boys in the classroom.

No killing innocent people anymore.


We can also negate imperative sentences. Study the following examples:

Stop this! → Don't stop this.

Open the window. → Don't open the window.


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