In order to reinforce a point about ‘double negatives’, my junior school teacher (many years ago!) repeated the following sentence over and over, which stayed in my mind “if you haven’t got nothing, then you must have something”. Double negatives cancel each other out to make a positive. The situation occurs when two negative words (in this case haven’t and nothing) are together in a sentence and refer to the same thing.
Three other examples of double negatives in sentences are below:
1. She didn’t have no food
Explanation: Due to the double negatives didn’t and no, the sentence ends up with positive meaning – ‘if she didn’t have no food, then she must have some food‘.
Sentence corrected with only one negative: ‘She didn’t have any food’.
2. I don’t have nobody
Explanation: Due to the double negatives don’t and nobody, the sentence ends up with positive meaning – ‘If I don’t have nobody, then I must have somebody‘.
Sentence corrected with only one negative: ‘I don’t have anybody‘.
3. They couldn’t find nothing at the shops
Explanation: Due to the double negatives couldn’t and nothing, the sentence ends up with positive meaning – ‘If they couldn’t find nothing at the shops, then they must have found something at the shops’ .
Sentence corrected with only one negative: ‘They couldn’t find anything at the shops’.
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