A negative statement or question is used to convey something that isn’t true, not happening or potentially missing or absent. In English we form such constructions typically with the use of words like not, never, nothing, none, doesn’t, don’t, didn’t
and so on.
Today we’re going to look at how to express negative statements in Spanish. No
In Spanish, most negative statements are constructed by using the word no.
This functions to mean “not”. Unlike English, we don’t need to use constructions like “do not” which would translate to use the verb hacer (to do).
In fact, you should never try to translate hacer into constructions that would represent words like “don’t”, “didn’t” or “doesn’t”.
To make a negative statement, we simply apply a no
in front of the main verb we wish to negate. Let’s see some example:
|Positive ||Meaning ||Negative ||Meaning |
|“hablo español” ||I speak Spanish ||“no hablo español” ||I don't speak Spanish |
|“Lo comieron” ||They ate it ||“No lo comieron” ||They didn't eat it |
|“Vivimos juntos” ||We live together ||“No vivimos juntos” ||We don't live together |
|“Nosotros vivimos juntos” ||We live together ||“Nosotros no vivimos juntos” ||We do not live together |
Again, for the avoidance of doubt: we never use the verb hacer (to do)
to represent the doing part of words like “don’t”, “didn’t” and “doesn’t”.
Notice that we’ve shown two versions of the last example. First without a subject pronoun, then with the subject pronoun nosotros.
If we remember back to when we learnt about subject pronouns, they tend to be optional and function to make the statement more emphatic.
When we use words like no
to negate a statement, this typically sits in front of the main verb and all its object pronouns. However, the subject pronoun will precede even the negative word.
This said, there are phrases where there might not be a main verb, or some special constructions where no
sits at the end of the sentence:
Other negative words
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“¡Perros no!” ||No dogs! |
|“Yo no” ||Not me |
|“Ahora no” ||Not now |
|“Ya no” ||No longer |
|“Espero que no” ||I hope not |
Of course, there are other negative words in Spanish we can use instead of just no.
Let’s see a list of the most common:
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“nada” ||nothing |
|“nunca” ||never |
|“jamás” ||never |
|“nunca jamás” ||never ever |
|“tampoco” ||neither |
|“nadie” ||nobody |
|“ningún” ||not any |
|“ninguno / ninguna” ||neither one |
|“ni” ||neither / nor / not even |
Most of these words can used in combination with no.
In these cases the negative pairs tend to sandwich the rest of the phrase. Equally, most of the negative words may used on their own too, whereby like the word no
they will usually sit at the front of the sentence. Let’s see some examples:
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“No he dicho nada” ||I've not said anything / I have said nothing |
|“No he hablado con nadie” ||I have not spoken to anybody |
|“No sé nada” ||I don't know anything / I know nothing |
|“No pasa nada” ||There's nothing amiss / Don't worry |
|“No llegaron ni David ni María” ||Neither David nor María arrived |
|“Yo tampoco” ||Neither did I / I didn't either |
|“Nadie vino” ||Nobody came |
|“¡Nunca toques!” ||Never Touch! |
Notice that in some constructions where we use no
paired with another negative word, the translation seems to un-negate the negative word in the English translation. For instance: “no sé nada” literally mean I don’t know nothing.
In English that would be grammatically incorrect, as we don’t allow double negatives. However, in Spanish double negative are indeed allowed and expected. Conclusion | En conclusión
Making negative statements in Spanish is generally speaking fairly straightforward. Adding a simple no
to the front a verb construction is often all we need to do. Certainly, we don’t need to involve another verb to create words that mean “don’t”.
Negative words never split compound verb constructions as they can do in English. For instance: “No
lo he arreglado” (I have not arranged it).
Beyond this, once we get used to seeing statements that have literal double negatives, there aren’t too many other rules that we need to be aware of. Words like ni
can take a while to master, although we have already covered this special word in more detail previously on Spectrum Monkey.