Double negative

From Teflpedia

A double negative (/ˈdʌbəl ˈnegətɪv/) is a construction that contains two separate negative grammatical markers[1]

In standard English double negatives logically resolve to a positive. However, in many non-standard dialects, this is negative concord and is permitted. Context and pragmatics are therefore extremely important. Is the speaker someone who has a non-standard dialect? What register are they using?

Meaning[edit | edit source]

Standard English: Without negative concord[edit | edit source]

Without negative concord, this is a positive, since logically, two negatives make a positive:

  • "We can’t not go" - meaning "we must go".

Non-standard English: With negative concord[edit | edit source]

With negative concord, this is a negative, e.g.

  • %"I can’t get no satisfaction".

In standard English this should be "I can’t get any satisfaction". Use of this type of double negative is proscribed.

It’s also possible to derive triple negatives %"I didn’t say nothing to nobody" with similar negative concord.

References[edit | edit source]