Negation

Introduction

Negative sentences (las oraciones negativas) in Spanish grammar are formed by placing the adverb no before the verb. Double negation is used when the negative is formed with words such as nadie, nada, ningún etc.

Learn about the word order in Spanish negative sentence with Lingolia, then practise what you have learnt in the exercises.

Example

A Cristina le encanta pasear, pero no le gusta la lluvia. Cuando no hace sol, no desiste y sale de todos modos con su perro. Como no quiere mojarse, no olvida nunca coger un paraguas. A su perro tampoco le gusta el agua, por eso le pone un sombrero.

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Negative constructions with no

Sentences are negated in Spanish by putting no in front of the verb. The usual word of a negative sentence is:

subject + no + verb + direct object + indirect object

subject no verb direct object indirect object
Cristina no pone un sombrero a su perro.Cristina doesn’t put a hat on her dog.
Cristina no ha puesto un sombrero a su perro.Cristina hasn’t put a hat on her dog.

Word order with object pronouns

When objects are replaced by object pronouns, the word order changes:

subject + no + indirect object pronoun + direct object pronoun + predicate

subject no indirect object pronoun direct object pronoun predicate direct object indirect object
Cristina no le pone un sombrero.Cristina doesn’t put a hat on him.
Cristina no lo pone a su perro.Cristina doesn’t put it on her dog.
Cristina no se* lo pone.Cristina doesn’t put it on him.

*The indirect object pronoun in the 3rd person is usually le/les. However, when le/les is directly followed by the pronoun lo, la, los or las, then we use se as the indirect object pronoun instead of le/les.

Example:
Ella le pone un sombrero She puts a hat on him.
Ella se lo pone.She puts it on him.

To Note

No means not and no. That’s why we often use no twice in Spanish negations, once as no and once to negate the verb.

Example:
¿Te has mojado? - No, no me he mojado.Did you get wet? - No, I didn’t get wet.

No can also be a question particle at the end of a sentence (like the English isn’t…?/don’t…?/etc.).

Example:
Has salido a pasear, ¿no?You went for a walk, didn’t you?

Double Negatives in Spanish Grammar

Unlike English grammar in which double negatives are considered non-standard, Spanish negation is commonly strengthened or emphasized using double negatives. A sentence negated using words such as nadie, nada, nunca, tampoco, ningún etc. generally requires a double negative which follows the formula no + verb + negating word.

  • no … (a) nadie
    Example:
    Cristina no ve a nadie en la calle.Cristina doesn’t see anyone on the street.
    literally: Cristina doesn’t see no-one on the street.
  • no … nada
    Example:
    No hay nada mejor que un paraguas.There isn’t anything better than an umbrella
    literally: There’s not nothing better that an umbrella.
  • no … nunca/jamás
    Example:
    El perro de Cristina no lleva nunca un chubasquero.Cristina’s dog never wears a raincoat.
    literally: Cristina’s dog doesn’t never wear a raincoat.
  • no … tampoco
    Example:
    Cristina no lleva tampoco un chbasquero.Cristina doesn’t wear a raincoat either.
    Literally: Cristina doesn’t wear a raincoat neither.
  • no … ningún
    Example:
    Cristina no ve a ningún amigo en el parque.Cristina doesn’t see any friends at the park.
    literally: Cristina doesn’t see no friends at the park.
  • no … ni … ni
    Example:
    Cristina no lleva ni botas de agua ni chubasquero.Cristina wears neither wellingtons nor a raincoat.
    literally: Cristina doesn’t wear neither wellingtons nor a raincoat.

However, some of these words can be placed before the verb in which case no is left off.

Example:
El perro de Cristina no lleva nunca un chubasquero.
→ El perro de Cristina nunca lleva un chubasquero. Cristina’s dog never wears a raincoat.
Cristina no lleva tampoco un chubasquero.
→ Cristina tampoco lleva un chubasquero.Cristina doesn’t wear a raincoat either.

Negative words and expressions

Some words that refer to people, things and time have a positive form and a negative equivalent. Use the neagtive word in negative sentences and the positive equivalent in positive sentences. In the table below, you can compare these contrasting words pairs with their English equivalents.

Spanish English Example
alguien
→ nadie
someone
→ no one
Alguien podrá ayudarte con los deberes.Someone will be able to help you with the homework.
Nadie podrá ayudarte con los deberes.No one will be able to help you with the homework
algún
→ ningún
some
→ no, none
Seguro que alguna tienda sigue abierta a estas horas.Surely there’s some shop still open this late.
→ Seguro que ninguna tienda sigue abierta a estas horas.Surely there’s no shop still open this late.
algo
→ (no)…nada
something
→ nothing/(not) … anything
Amparo me ha contado algo interesante.Amparo told me something interesting.
→ Amparo no me ha contado nada interesante.Amparo told me nothing interesting
or: Amparo didn’t tell me anything interesting.
siempre
→ nunca/jamás
always
→ never
Siempre voy de vacaciones a España.I always go to Spain on holiday.
Nunca/Jamás voy de vacaciones a España.I never go to Spain on holiday.
también
→ tampoco
also
→ not … either/neither
Yo también escucho la radio a diario.I also listen to the radio everyday.
→ Yo tampoco escucho la radio a diario.I don’t listen to the radio everyday either.
todavía/aún
→ ya no
still
→ no longer
El auditorio está todavía/aún lleno.The auditorium is still full.
→ El auditorio ya no está lleno.The auditorium is no longer full.
todo
→ nada
everything
→ nothing
Aquí está todo bajo control.Everything is under control here.
→ Aquí nada está bajo control.Nothing is under control here.
todos
→ nadie
everyone
→ no one
Todos han llegado puntuales.Everyone arrived punctually.
Nadie ha llegado puntual.No one arrived punctually.
un
→ no/ningún
one/a
→ no
Hay una salida de emergencia en el bar.There in an emergency exit in the bar.
No hay ninguna salida de emergencia en el bar.There is no emergency exit in the bar.