Grammar-QuizzesClausesClause Structure › Negatives

Negatives

Express absence, doubt, denial, prohibition and more

prohibition signs
 
NEUTRAL

Negativity in a noun phrase can be expressed with negative determiners (Some vs. no), quantity pronouns (all vs. none), quantity phrases (all of… vs. none of…), disjunctive determiners (either vs. neither) and more subtlety with demonstratives (this vs. that).                        

SUBJECT NOUN PHRASE PREDICATE
PRONOUN  

Someone

Somebody

parked here illegally.

QUANTITY PRONOUN  

All  

Most

Many

are smoking outside.

QUANTIFIER PHRASE + NOUN  

All of the dogs

A lot of dogs   

Many of the dogs

have been pooping on the sidewalk.

DEMOSTRATIVE–EMOTIONALLY NEAR  

This guy

These guys

is walking where he should.

are walking where they should.

NOUN  

The logic of the signs

Their existence

The advantage

is obvious to most people.

NEGATIVE

Negativity in a noun phrase is expressed with absolute (no, not) and relative (few, little, hardly any, scarcely a one) expressions.  More subtle expressions of negativity can be expressed with "distancing"  (this vs. that) and with choice of noun and adjectives.        

SUBJECT NOUN PHRASE PREDICATE
DETERMINER + PRONOUN  

No one  /   Not anyone

Nobody  /   Not anybody

parked here illegally.

QUANTITY PRONOUN  

None¹  / Not any / Not all

Hardly any / Scarcely any

Few / Not many

are smoking outside.

QUANTIFIER PHRASE + NOUN  

None / Not all of the dogs

Few of our dogs

Not many of the dogs

has/have been pooping on the sidewalk.

DEMONSTRATIVE-EMOTIONALLY FAR  

That guy

Those guys

is walking where he shouldn't.

are walking where they shouldn't.

NEG. NOUN  

The illogicality of the signs

Their nonexistence

The disadvantage

is obvious to most people.

 

 

¹none – formal usage agrees with the quantifier—singular (none of the dogs is…); informal usage agrees with the noun of the phrase—"closest noun" (none of the dogs are)

Polarity–sensitive words occur in negative environments:  any, anybody, any longer, any more, anyone, anything, anywhere. Also, at all, either, ever, long, much, until, too, yet.  (Huddleston 822-3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Noun Prefixes

List

 

 

A DIS IL / IN / IM / IR NON UN

amorality

disability

illegality

nonfiction

unemployment

anarchy

disbelief

inability

nonsense

unfairness

apathy

discontent

imbalance

nonexistence

unrest

atheist

dislike

irrealis

noncooperation

untidiness

► Show—Negative Noun Prefix List ▼ Hide List

a /ab / an (prefix) — not, without; abnormality, abolishment, abortion, absence, abstraction, absurdity, acquittal, alienation, amateur, amelioration, amnesia, amorality, anarchy, anesthesia, apathy, atheism, atheist

dis (prefix) — not; disability, disadvantage, disagreement, disappearance, disappointment, disarmament, disarray, disaster, disbelief, discharge, discomfort, discontent, discord, discouragement, discrimination, disdain, disenchantment, disengagement, disentanglement, disgrace, disgust, dishearten, dishonesty, disillusionment, disinterest, disjointedness, dislike, dismay, disobedience, disorder, disorderliness, disorientation, disparity, displeasure, disproportionate, disqualification, disregard, disrepair, disrespect, dissatisfaction, disservice, dissociation, dissolution, distaste, distrust, disuse

il (prefix) — not; illegality, illegibility, illegitimacy, illiteracy, illusion

im (prefix) — not; imbalance, immaturity, immobility, immodesty, immorality, impasse, impediment, imperfection, impertinence, impiety, impoliteness, impropriety, impurity

in (prefix) — not; inability, inconvenience, indecision, indigestion, indiscipline, indiscretion, inexperience, injunction, insanity, insecurity, insomnia, insubordination, invisibility

ir (prefix) — not; irrationality, irrelevance, irresistibility, irresponsibility, irreconcilability

non (prefix) — not, lacking; noncompliance, nonentity, nonexistence, nonfiction, nonintervention, nonpayment, nonproliferation, nonsense, non sequitur, nonviolence

un (prefix) — not; unearthing, unease, unemployment, unrest, unveiling

(Garner) (Merriam Webster) (Huddleston 19 5.5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Adjective Prefixes

List

 

Negative Adjective Prefixes

A DIS IL / IN / IM / IR NON UN

amoral

disbelief

illegal

nonfiction

unemployed

atonal

discontent

inexpensive

nonsense

unfair

achromatic

dislike

impossible

nonexistent

untrue

asocial

disability

irregular

noncooperation

untidy

► Show—Negative Adjective Prefix List ▼ Hide List

a (prefix) — not; amoral, amorphous, anesthetic, anorexia, anomalous, apathetic, apolitical, asymmetric, atheistic, atonal, atypical

dis (prefix) — not, bad, different; disabled, disadvantaged, disagreeable, discouraging, discourteous, discouraging, discriminating, disdainful, disenchanted, disengaged, disentangled, disgraced, disgruntled, disgusted, disheartened, dishonest, dishonored, disillusioned, disingenuous, disinherited, disinterested, disjointed, disliked, disloyal, dismal, dismayed, disobedient, disorderly disorientated, dispassionate, displeased, disproportionate, disproving, disqualified, disregarded, disrepair, disrespected, dissatisfied, dissimilar, dissociated, dissolved, distasteful

il (prefix) — not, lacking; illegal, illegitimate, illicit, illiterate, illogical

im (prefix) — not, lacking; immaterial, immature, immobile, immodest, immoral, immovable, immune, impartial, impassable, impatient, impeccable, impecunious, impenetrable, imperceptible, imperfect, impertinent, imperturbable, impervious, impetuous, impiety, impolite, impractical, impregnable, improbable, improper, impudent, impunity, impure

ir (prefix) — not, lacking; irrational, irreconcilable, irrefutable, irregular, irrelevant, irreparable, irreplaceable, irrepressible, irreproachable, irresistible, irresponsible, irrevocable

in (prefix) — not, lacking; inactive, inadequate, inadvertent, inanimate, inappropriate, inarticulate, inattentive inauspicious, incalculable, incapable, incessant, incommunicado, incomparable, incompatible, incompetence, incomplete, incomprehensible, inconceivable, inconclusive, inconsiderate, inconsistent, inconsolable, inconspicuous, inconvenient, incorrect, incorrigible, incorruptible, incredible, incredulous, incurable, indecent, indefensible, indefinable, indefinite, indelible, indelicate, indescribable, indestructible, indeterminate, indifferent, indigestible, indirect, indiscreet, indispensable, indisposed, indistinguishable, indivisible, indomitable, indubitable, inedible, infallible, ineffective, inefficient, inelegant, ineligible, inept, inescapable, inevitable, inexact, inexcusable, inexhaustible, inexpensive, inexperienced, inexpressible, infamous, injudicious, innocent, inoffensive, inopportune, inorganic, insane, insatiable, insecure, insensible, insensitive, inseparable, insufferable, insufficient, intangible, invisible

non (prefix) — not, lacking; nonaligned, nonchalant, noncombatant, nonconformist, nondescript, nonexistent, nonflammable, nonprofessional, nonprofit, nonsensical, nonstandard, nonstick, nonstop, nonviolent

un (prefix) — not; unable, unabridged, unaccompanied, unaccountable, unaffected, unAmerican, unapproachable, unarmed, unattached, unattended, unbalanced, unbearable, unbelievable unbending, unborn, unburdened, unbuttoned, uncertain, uncharitable, uncharted, unchecked, unclean, unclear, uncomfortable, uncommitted, uncommon, uncompromising, unconcerned, unconditional, unconscious, uncork, uncountable, uncovered, uncritical, uncut, undecided, undeniable, undone, undoubted, undressed, unearthed, uneasy, unemployed, unenlightened, unenviable, unequaled, unequivocal, uneven, unfailing unfaithful, unfavorable, untold, unforeseen, unfortunate, ungovernable, ungrateful, unhappy, unhealthy, unhelpful, uninhibited, unidentified, uninterrupted, unjust, unkind, unknown, unlawful, unlikely, unlocked, unlucky, unmistakable, unnatural, unnecessary, unpleasant, unprintable, unprofessional, unqualified, unreal, unreasonable, unrest, unrestrained, unroll, unruly, unsaid, unsanitary, unsavory, unscrupulous, unsettled, unshakable, unsightly, unskilled, unsophisticated, unspeakable, unthinkable, untidy, untimely, untruth, unused, unusual, unwell, unwise

(Garner) (Merriam Webster) (Huddleston 19 5.5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Verb Groups

Expressing absence, prohibition, failure, refusal

 

 

 

Negativity expressed in verb phrases (statements)

NEUTRAL

Negative verbs or verb groups are placed after an auxiliary (be, do, modal). The negative can be contracted to n't as in isn't, don't, and can't. (See Apostrophes–contractions.)                                                  

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
NP AUXILIARY (VP) PP

Jack

Our friends

Jack

Our friends

 

is coming

are coming

likes

like

Come

to our office party.

 

parties.

 

to our office party.

NP MODAL PP

Jack

Our friends

Jack

Our friends

will come

may come

can come

would come

to our office party.

 

NP NEG VERB POS. TAG QUESTION

Jack

Our friends

Jack

Our friends

isn't coming,

aren't coming,

doesn't like,

don't like,

is he?

are they?

does he?

do they?

NP SEMANTICALLY POS. PP

Jack

 

enjoys

seeks

attends

parties.

NEGATIVE

Negative verbs use be-support (am not, is not, are not), do-support (do not, does not), or modal-support: (will not, may not, cannot, shall not, would not, might not, must not, should not, dare not, need not).

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
NP NEG + AUX (VP) PP

Jack

Our friends

Jack

Our friends

 

is not coming

are not coming

does not like

do not like

Do not¹ come

to our office party.

 

parties.

 

to our office party.

NP NEG. MODAL PP

Jack

Our friends

Jack

Our friends

will not come

may not come

cannot¹ come

would not come

to our office party.

 

NP POS. VERB NEF. TAG QUESTION

Jack

Our friends

Jack

Our friends

is coming,

are coming,

does like,

do like,

isn't he?

aren't they?

doesn't he?

don't they?

NP SEMANTICALLY NEG. PP

Jack

 

hates

avoids

dodges

parties.

 

¹ Imperative —"Do" – "Do not" (Shout! / Don't shout!);   "Be" – "Don't be"   (Be quiet! / Don't be noisy.)

For other sentence forms see:  Present Word Order, Past Word Order, Modal Word Order, Present Perfect Word Order.

Also see negatives in Conditionals (If you won't) | If v. Unless | Word Contractions.

 

 

Verbs that Express Negative Meanings (just a few)

annoy

agitate

avoid

bother

degrade

detest

disable

disbelieve

discourage

discredit

disfavor

dishonor

dislike

disrespect

disparage

dodge

forget

fool

misguide

misinform

mislead

scam

trick

torture

victimize

Prefixes include a-(not, away) de- (down) , dis- (not, no longer) , mis-.(wrong)

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Verb Complements

Express opinion on not doing an activity

 

 

 

Negative Verb Complements

NEUTRAL

A positive complement does not contain no, not or a meaning that expresses negativity.                                                       

SUBJECT PREDICATE POS. COMPLEMENT
SUBJECT POS. VERB POS. NONFINITE CLAUSE

Jack

wants

to attend our party.

Jack

enjoys

attending our parties.

Jack

is

amused by parties.

SUBJECT POS. VERB POS. MEANING

Jack

wants

to attend our party.

Jack

enjoys

attending our parties.

Jack

is

amused.

NEGATIVE

A negative complement contain no or not before it, or has a meaning that expresses negativity.         

SUBJECT PREDICATE NEG. COMPLEMENT
SUBJECT POS. VERB NEG. NONFINITE CLAUSE

Jack

wants

not to attend¹ our party. (infin. cls.)

Jack

enjoys

not attending our party. (gerund cls.)

Jack

is

not amused. (past-participle)

SUBJECT POS. VERB NEG. MEANING

Jack

wants

to avoid our party. 

Jack

enjoys

keeping clear of our parties.

Jack

is

displeased. (participle)

in trouble. (prep phrase)

bad.  (adjective)

a lazy dog.  (noun phrase)

 

Also see Nonfinite Clauses, Participles -ed / -ing.

¹An infinitive is currently analyzed as to (the subordinator) + plain form verb. Placing not before the verb is more emphatic.  The grammar rule regarding not splitting infinitives has little or no support among current grammarians. (There is nothing to split since to is the infinitival subordinator and not part of the verb form.) See Nonfinite Infinitives and Spltting Verbs dispute.

 

 

 

 

 

Negatives in Adverbs

Express infrequency, negative opinion or evaluation

 

 

Negative Adverbs

NEUTRAL

A neutral adverb may may express frequency (usually, often) time that is ongoing (still, already) manner that is agreeable (quickly, cleverly) stance (fortunately, luckily).                                             

SUBJECT PREDICATE POS. COMPLEMENT
SUBJECT NEG. ADVERB POS. NONFINITE CLAUSE

Jack

always wants

mostly, usually (Adv Frequency)

to attend our parties.

Jack

smokes

still smokes.

(Aspectual Adv)

still.

Jack

dances gracefully.

rhythmically, lyrically, dynamically

 

Fortunately, Jack

 

enjoys

luckily, happily, thankfully   (Stance)

attending our parties.

NEGATIVE

A negative adverb may may express infrequency (rarely, scarcely) time that has ended (no / any more) manner that is disagreeable (stiffly, clumsily) stance (unfortunately, regrettably)

SUBJECT PREDICATE POS. COMPLEMENT
SUBJECT NEG. ADVERB POS. NONFINITE CLAUSE

Jack

never wants

hardly ever, rarely (Adv Frequency)

to attend our parties.

Jack

smokes

doesn't smoke

no more.

any more.

any longer, yet

Jack

dances awkwardly.

clumsily, ungracefully, stiffly (Adv Manner)

 

Unfortunately, Jack

 

enjoys

unluckily, sadly, regrettably, (Stance)

attending our parties.

 

Stance adverbs express the opinion of the speaker about the activity. The adverb modifies the entire clause rather than the verb. See Adverbs for Evaluation.

 

 

 

 

Negatives in Connectors

Express exclusion

 

 

Negative Connectors

NEUTRAL

A neutral connector expresses coordination—conjunction (and, also, too) or disjunction (or, either…or), subordination—no meaning (that, to, for), or adjunct prepositions— purpose, reason, location timing and so on (before, after, though, because, etc.)

SUBJ–PRED COORD #1 COORD #2

Jack likes

parties and

except (Paired Conj.)

dances too.

 

Jack likes

either parties

(Paired Disjunct).

or dances.

Jack likes

both parties

and…too (Paired Conj)

and dances.

  SUBORDINATOR COMPLEMENT

Jack thinks

that

(Subord)

we attend so many parties.

Jack asked

to

(Infin Nonfinite)

attend some parties.

Jack asked

for us

(Infin Cls w/Subj)

to some attend parties.

  PREP ADJUNCT COMPLEMENT

Jack asked about the party

because

he was interested in going to it.

Jack asked about hosts

before

we left.

Jack asks questions

if

he wants answers.

NEGATIVE

A negative connector expresses exclusion— coordinators (but, but not, and not, neither…nor, not only…but also), or a negative adjunct prepositions (not because, not before, not while, not over, not in, not until and so on.)                                                                       

SUBJ–PRED NEG COORD #1 [NEG] COORD #2

Jack likes

neither parties

(Paired Disjunct)

nor dances.

Jack likes

parties but not

except (Paired Neg.)

dances.

 

Jack likes

only parties

but not dances.

  NEG SUBORD COMPLEMENT

Jack thinks

that

we attend too many parties.

Jack asked

not to

(Neg Infin)

attend so many parties.

Jack asked

~not (for us)

(for us) not

to attend so many parties.

  NEG PREP ADJUNCT COMPLEMENT

Jack asked about the party

not because

(Not…because)

he was interested in going to it. 

Jack asked about the hosts

not before

we left.

Jack asks questions

unless  (not if)

(If / Unless)

he knows the answers.

 

* not used / ~ borderline usage or acceptability, or requires a special context

host (N) – person inviting other people to an event; Not before we left, did Jack ask about the hosts.

so — several neutral;  too — several, excessive; See So many / Too many + Infin.

to and for as subordinators;  See Infinitival Nonfinites.

 

 

 

 

 

Similar but Different Negatives

Untangling the similarities

 

 

 

Some Prefixes with Different Meanings

VERB SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT PAIRS

ABLE

He is unable to do the work.  not able

He is incapable of doing the work.  not able

You can disable the spell-checker. make unable or unfit

DOUBT  

He will doubtless / no doubt make a choice. (Adv) mild uncertainty

He will undoubtedly make a choice. no uncertainty

He will clearly make a choice. no uncertainty (Garner 226)

EAT

The berries were inedible. ( < Latin – not suitable for eating)

The berries were uneatable. ( < English – not suitable for eating or not appetizing enough to eat)  (Merriam--Webster  541)

ESCAPABLE

(same¹)

The response is inescapable. cannot be escaped

The response is unescapable. cannot be escaped

In many cases, both prefixes are in use.

EQUAL

The shares are unequalAdj. not fair, parted evenly

He speaks of inequalityN. not being of fair or just

FAITH

He was faithless. without faith

He was unfaithful. sexually promiscuous

 

FLAMMABLE

The fabric is flammable (< English 1920) / inflammable (< Latin ) can easily be set on fire

The fabric was nonflammable. cannot be easily set on fire

HUMAN (E)  

What they are doing is inhumane. lacking kindness or pity

The refugees received inhuman treatment. lacking kindness or pity

What they are doing is unhuman. not human (other)   (Merriam-Webster 927)

INTERESTED   

He is disinterested in the matter. impartial, not influenced by it for personal advantage

He is uninterested in the matter. not interested, indifferent

LOVE

He was lovelessnot expressing love

He was unlovedno one loved him

He was unlovable.  no one could love him

NOUN SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT PAIRS

MORAL

Their actions were immoral. lacking in morality

Their actions were unmoral. lacking in morality

Their actions were amoral. no morality

SATISFIED

The young man was dissatisfied with his job. not content, unfulfilled, ungratified

The customers were unsatisfied with the service. not satisfied with something—service, demands, ambition, claims

(Merriam-Webster 355)

HELPFUL

He was helplessunable to help himself

He was unhelpfulnot helpful (helping others)

TYPICAL

This situation is atypical. without a type < Greek

This situation is untypicalnot normal  < English

PARALLEL

Her performance was unparalleled. outstanding, unmatched

The lines are unparallel not equidistant

The wording is nonparallelnot of the same word form or type

REPEATABLE  

The word is unrepeatable. not polite to repeat

The word is nonrepeatable. cannot be repeated

REGARD 

The law requires equal treatment regardless of race, religion or gender. without influence of

*irregardless  nonstandard usage

The judge will disregard the statement. ignore

SCIENTIFIC

The news article is unscientificnot in accordance with scientific principles

The news article is nonscientificrelated to another field outside of science

(unacademic / nonacademic, unprofessional / nonprofessional)

SENSE

He is an insensitive person.  not feeling physically or emotionally (with other people)

He is an insensible person.   not able to feel or perceive with the senses

He talks nonsensewords having little or no meaning

USE

The instructions were uselesswithout use

The instructions were unusefulnot useful

 

 

Greek origin: a- anesthesia, anorexia, amorphous, anarchy

Latin origin: in-  inedible, inadmissible, inequality, incivility

English and French origin: un- uneatable, unpresentable, unequal, uncivil

¹ in- and un- : advisable, consolable, controllable, distinguishable, eligible, escapable, practical, supportable

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

His no nonsense approach to life is refreshing.   Correct. This is an expression.

 

*I can't stay here no longer.  (double negative)

*I can't see no one.

~I doubt that someone will come  (polarity)

None of the students is here. (count noun)

None of the students are here. (count noun)

None of the equipment is / *are here. (noncount noun)

None of the team is / ~are here. (collective noun)

None of the team (members) is / are here. (count noun)

SOLUTION

He doesn't tolerate nonsense(anything of insignificannt importance or of little or no use)   

I can't stay here any longer.  (any more)

I can't see any one.  (anybody)

I doubt that anyone will come.  ('doubt' expresses a negative context)

~I doubt that someone will come.  ('someone' may express a particular person)

None of the students is here.  (formal usage agrees with the quantifier—singular)

None of the students are here. (informal usage agrees with the noun of the phrase—"closest noun")

None of the equipment is here.

None of the team is here. (focuses on the whole—a collective noun)

None of the team (members) are here. (focuses on the individuals.)

 

*not grammatical

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice

"The Glass is Half Empty"

glass half empty
 

Read the Context

Jack's "glass is half empty rather than half full". That is, he ___ complains about his (-fortune). He (-can) find (-thing) pleasant to say. If you tell him that it is a beautiful day, he will (-agree) with you and tell you what (-go) right for him that day. He has an (-ability) to count his blessings and excels at talking about his (-advantages). In fact, Jack isn't particularly (-lucky); he's just (-satisfied) with life.

He doubts that (-thing) good will come his way and chooses (-hope) for anything better. I say to him, "It (-hurt) you to say something pleasant, (-be) it?" He tells me that I am (-both) sympathetic (-and) understanding. I tell him that his complaining leaves me (-settled) and (-heartened).  He says, "Well, (-ask) me how my day is going and I (-ruin) your day."

 

complain (V) — express pain or uneasiness

fortune (N) — chance or luck

heartened (Adj) — feeling courage, confidence or cheer

ruin (V) — destroy, spoil

settled (Adj) — feeling organized, resolved, in order

 

 

 

Determine which the negative form to use.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" button or the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Prefix Contrasts

 

 

Determine which negative word form to use.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" button or the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom.

 

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

 

Source  Longman   http://www.ldoceonline.com