Double negatives in english

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by Alexx, Apr 25, 2008.

  1. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Seeing "No country for old men" made me think about double negatives in english, and today hearing "I don't wanna see your face no more" in "American Woman" performed by Lenny Krawitz was a trigger to start some research about it.

    So, natives, what is your attitute to double negatives? Do you use it/is it normally used in place you live? If yes, who uses it? If not, where do you think it is used normally? Are there regions (like Texas in "No coutry for old men"), where double negatives are so widely used, that it is considered normal?

    Thanks for any input.
  2. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    And how about "We dont need no education" ?;)
  3. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    I never use them - they are non-standard and conjure up visions of the uneducated and ignorant (in English, of course, not in other languages where they are standard usage).
  4. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    I'm with Glen on this one, in english double negatives is grammatically incorrect and conjures up thoughts of being uneducated.
    When you here it in songs like...I don't need no education...the singer is pointing out that the students singing don't yet have a good education.

    Regionally, maybe sparsely populated areas of the south.

    About movie, No country for old men..
    I think this is saying,

    This (or that) is no country(area, land, wildness, place--not nation in this context) for old men.
    This, or that, is, is understood.
  5. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I agree with scrimshaw and Glenn. Generally, it is known as incorrect grammatically, and at least among the more-educated population in America, it is considered a sign of a poor education. Having said that, however, I'd say that double negatives are a lot more common among teens, particularly since being perceived as smart is usually not considered "cool" at that age. Also, double negatives tend to come out more when a speaker is very emotional, or wants to emphasize the negative more strongly--albeit, it's still incorrect grammar even in this case.

    Speaking from the perspective of one who grew up in Texas, it seems to me that double negatives are indeed more common in Texas, and in the South in general, and not just in sparsely populated areas as scrimshaw suggests, but also in urban and suburban areas (this being in comparison with the West and Northeast--in rural areas of the South, it is, as scrimshaw says, more common still). But I would attribute this to culture more than education. Kids are learning to speak this way long before going to school, and many of them simply get in the habit of speaking that way, and never make the effort to change. Certainly there are cases in Texas and elsewhere where education (or rather lack of it) is the biggest cause of this. Ex. "I ain't got none," which is simply horrible grammar on multiple levels.

    ... And just for the record, in spite of the bad grammar, "American Woman" just wouldn't sound right with "Don't wanna see your face any more") :)
  6. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart
    Cannot conceive nor name thee.
  7. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member


    What about the film made you think about double negatives? The title does not contain a double negative.
  8. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Interesting :). What about somewhere else than in the US?

    Just for sure, is it possible to correct this sentence "I don't wanna see your face no more" both ways:

    I don't wanna see your face any more.


    I do wanna see your face no more.


    The title doesn't :), but every other sentence does. However, I understood very little from this movie, you people speak horible in TX ;-).
  9. fabik317

    fabik317 Well-Known Member

    If I remember correctly, Roger Waters once said something to the effect that "We don't need no education" should be interpreted with parentheses around "no education", pointing out the low quality of schooling in Britain of that time.
  10. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    not really - you would only see the first construction used. it would be possible to to use the second one as "I want to see your face no more" but it would sound rather like Yoda from Star Wars was speaking (quite odd and foreign).

    also - "wanna" is slang for "want to" and, although you will hear it spoken a lot, except for kids sending text messages, you won't see it written.
  11. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    That is exactly what I wanted to know. Yoda :).

    OK, sure, I just didn't want to change quote from the song. But I guess it is still more acceptable than double negative.

    Just look what mr. google says: :wink:

    Two most popular "#nna's":

    Gonna: 179,000,000
    Wanna: 160,000,000

    Even those "less" popular words have good score:

    Tryna: 2,320,000
    Dunno: 32,400,000

    Just to compare:

    "Going to": 475,000,000
    "Want to" (+ "Wants to"): 1,046,000,000
    Prague: 53,400,000
    Tampa: 76,100,000
  12. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    OK, I cannot stop, this is kind of funny:

    This world is pretty uncertain:

    Yes: 703,000,000 (only)
    But: 2,780,000,000
    No: 5,580,000,000


    What do you think is the most frequent word, most-google-score-able word? I found "and" is 9,890,000,000. "A" is 14,530,000,000 but only 10% of those pages are in english.
  13. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member


    Don't know if you are aware of this..

    In school, we are(or were) taught that two negatives equal a positive.
    We don't need no education is actually saying 'we need an education'.

    I don't want to see your face no more
    I want to see your face again

    But nobody uses(hardly, except to make a point) these kind of sentences to make a positive sentence, so....when they are used, they are recognized for their bad grammar, because the speaker is trying to make a negative statement.
  14. McCracken

    McCracken Well-Known Member

  15. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Don't feel bad. When I first came to the Czech Republic, hardly any Czechs who spoke English could understand me, and I actually have only a slight Texan accent. :wink: I had to make a conscious effort to speak more clearly and distinctly for them to understand.
  16. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Whoops, I am scared :? ;-), he's going after me. He is in Prague right now.
  17. asmithnc

    asmithnc Member

    Hey Alexx

    Being from the South you hear double negitives daily. It does make one seem uneducated but it's how you were brought up. You are a product of your surroundings and thats a simple fact. To me it's used when talking to friends.... when being proper is not an issue. I perfer not to use this style but I tend to slip.

    BTW I will be in the Czech on the 6th of Sept. With my heavy southern accent I believe no one will be able to understand me. The accent alone make (Southerns) seem uneducated. Hearing me speak would be the issue not the double negitives.
  18. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    The definite article (the) and the zero article ("To him the most important thing was family") are the most frequently used words (or absence of a word!) in English, and that the indefinite article is in something like 5th place.
    That's very dull, I want to hear it is something like "elephant"
    We should all say elephant much more!

    Here the double negative.. Again it's become kind of a social class thing..
    The only ones really used in Cork (it differs from county to county) I can think of:

    I don't got nothing!
    I didn't do nothing!
    I don't see nothing wrong with it anyway!
  19. szkott

    szkott Member

    Hey Alexx,

    this might make you feel better:

    7,340,000,000 for you
    3,550,000,000 for me

    (29,350,000,000 for 1)
  20. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    I remember my English teacher correcting people on this

    I done my homework.

    You did your homework.

    I didn't do nothing wrong.

    You didn't do anything wrong.

    It's funny that it's difficult for native speakers too.

    The articles are the most common words in the English language. Including the Zero article which is where you have no article tee hee. ... thesis.pdf

    It's there somewhere... A really interesting thesis I read most of it before .. but now I can't find the specific bit about this

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