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Negative Words - Palabras Negativas

Written by tutor Candace B.

At times you may wish to express your desire not to do something. Or comment on a lack of something. To do that, you need to be able to properly express yourself in the negative, which doesn't always translate directly between English and Spanish. However, both languages use a special set of negative terms for such expressions. In Spanish, The negative is usually signified by the following words: No, nada, nadie, nunca, jamás, ninguno, and ni. The following breaks down how each are used.

No-- No is an adverb meaning “no” or “not” and while it can be used alone, it is also often used in conjunction with other negative words. Unlike in English, double negatives are acceptable and standard in Spanish.

Examples: No tengo el libro.
                I do not have the book.
                No tengo nada.
                I don't have anything.

Nada-- This pronoun means “nothing” or “Not anything.” It is a third-person singular pronoun, and verbs should be conjugated in the el/ella/usted form. Nada can also be an adverb meaning “not at all” often used to emphasize a condition or state of being.

Examples: Nada me molesta.
                Nothing bothers me.
                Los niños no saben nada.
                The boys do not know anything.
                Ellos están nada enfermos.
                They aren't sick at all.

Nadie-- This means “nobody/no one” or “not anybody/ not anyone.” It is a third-person singular pronoun, and verbs should be conjugated in the el/ella/usted form.

Examples: No hay nadie aqui.
                There is no one here.
                Nadie conoce a ella.
                Nobody knows her.

Nunca/Jamas-- both of these adverbs mean “never” or “not ever.” When used in questions, they take on the meaning of “ever”

Examples: Nunca hago nada interesante.
                I never do anything interesting.
                Han oído jamás tal ruido, ustedes?
                Have you all ever heard such a noise?

Ninguno-- This word can be an adjective meaning “no,” “none, ” or “not any;” or a pronoun meaning “neither” “none,” or not “any.” It is declined in different forms depending on the noun it refers to. Ningún (adjective) and ninguno (pronoun) are the masculine singular. Ninguna is the feminine singular. Ningunos is the masculine plural. Ningunas is the feminine plural. Verbs should be conjugated in the third person singular (el, ella, usted) or plural (ellos, ellas, ustedes) depending on which form is used. The plural forms are rarely used.

Examples: No tengo ningún idea que pasó.
                I have no idea what happened.
                Hay muchas blusas aqui, y no quiero llevarme ninguna.
                There are may blouses here, and I don't want to wear any of them.

Ni-- Ni on its own is a conjunction meaning “neither” or “nor.”

Examples: Ni Raquel ni José contestó el teléfono.
                Neither Raquel nor Jose answered the telephone.
                A ella no le gustan ni los zapatos azules ni los amarillos.
                She likes neither the blue shoes nor the yellow ones.

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