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Double negative

A double negative is a grammatical error in English consisting of two negating words used in one phrase, while a single negation is meant. Although it is not used in standard English, it is used almost consistantly in Ebonics and less frequently, but still commonly, in colloquial English. An example of this would be:
Don't nobody go to the store.
Double negative also refers to even more than two negatives, like:

And don't nobody buy nothing.

A double negation can be correct, meaning the positive, for example:

  • It is not unpleasant: logically this is weaker than "It is pleasant", meaning "It is neutral or pleasant", but it is often used as understatement for "It is quite pleasant", a linguistic device called litotes.

Some argue that such constructions are unnecessarily complicated, and also vaguer in meaning, and therefore not recommendable.

In some languages a double negative resolves to a negative, while in others it resolves to a positive. A famous linguist once made the further observation that it was unknown for a double positive ever to resolve to a negative. A sceptical voice came from the back of the lecture hall: "Yeah, right". (That statement, sometimes given as "Yeah, yeah," is often attributed to Prof. Sidney Morgenbesser of Columbia University.)



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