NO Double Trouble at ACET!

Can two wrongs ever make a right??
We hear songs titles, such as – ‘Ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone’ or ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’.


This is called a Double Negative – using no or not when you should use any. The two negatives cancel each other out and give a positive meaning. It does not intensify the negative.
However, there is a double negative that is grammatically correct. We use it to add nuance or subtlety to our statements. Examples:
A: “What’s Sarah’s new boyfriend like?”
B: “Well, I won’t say he is unattractive.”
What does it mean? Is he unattractive or attractive?
A: “Did you enjoy the film?”
B: “Well, I didn’t dislike it.”
Did I like it or not?
Using not and a negative prefix (un/dis etc) suggests the speaker has some doubts or reservations that would not be there if the speaker had responded: “I think he is quite unattractive” or “I didn’t really like the film.” What about “Don’t go without me!!” or “He is not unlike his father”.
What do they mean??
So unlike the song titles mentioned at the beginning, Tom Jones’ song “It’s not unusual” is grammatically correct!!
Test Yourself:
Don’t get into trouble with your double negatives.


Do you think it is old-fashioned to worry about the use of double negative in modern English usage?

Have your say – Don’t not join in the discussion!!

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