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This lesson is about how to make negative sentences in Spanish.

To answer a question with “no” is very easy because “no” is used in Spanish as well. On the other hand, in terms of building negative sentences and questions, there are many other points to be aware of. Some of them are quite different than what we are used to in English.

Note that you need to repeat the no if you are answering back with a verb.

  • Vas al teatro? (Do you go to theatre?)
  • No, no voy (No, I don’t go)

In the example above, “no” comes just before the verb. If an object is used in a sentence, it needs to come before the object:

¿No te gusta el teatro? (Don’t you like theatre?)

Other negative words which are frequently used are

  • Nada (nothing)

No sé nada (I don’t know anything)

  • Nadie (nobody)

Nadie quiere trabajar (nobody wants to work)

  • Nunca (never)

No fumo nunca (I never smoke)

  • Jamás (never)

Jamás veo la tele (I never watch television)

  • Tampoco (either)
  • Ninguno (none)

In this lesson, you learn the uses of the first four.Tampoco and Ninguno, together with different forms, will be handled in lesson negative and indefinite words.

Position of the negatives

Negative words generally precede the verb:

  • Nunca bebo la cerveza (I never drink beer)

Double negative

The first thing which should be emphasized is the use of double negative in Spanish. Remember what we said about the use of “no” in the beginning of the lesson. When answering the question you have to repeat “no” before the verb. To make it more clear, more examples are given below.

  • Él hablo español (he speaks Spanish)
  • Él no hablo español (he does not speak Spanish)

Note that to make a sentence negative in Spanish, you just need to use “no” before the verb. An auxiliary verb is not required, as opposed to English.

If you are answering a question, you need to use “no” two times

  • ¿Hablas ingles? (Do you speak English?)
  • No. No hablo ingles (No, I don’t speak English)

The double rule is valid for all negative words in Spanish: it is required to use two negative words, if the answer to a question is negative. Furthermore, two negative words can appear in one sentence, again contrary to English. 

For example

No sé nada. You can translate this sentence as “I don’t know anything”.  As you see, it’s not enough to say “sé nada”, you have to use no as well. Thus, it is not possible to have a negative word after the noun if there is no negative use before the verb.

It’s usual to see two negative words in one Spanish sentence. Sometimes even three:

  • No le escucha a nadie nunca  (He never listens to anyone)

On the other hand, you can use the negative words in affirmative sentences alone; in this case they need to come before the verb:

That means that you can say not only

  • No habla nadie (nobody speaks)

but also

  • Nadie habla (nobody speaks)  

nunca and jamás

These two can be used together to make an emphasize

  • Nunca jamás fumo. (I never ever smoke)

Another negative expression one can use is  ni siquiera

  • ni siquiera nos ha visto (he didn't even see us)

Use of ni-ni

Ni .. ni means neither ..nor.

  • no es ni verde ni blanco (it’s neither green nor white)
  • Ni mi madre ni mi padre van al teatro (neither my mom nor my dad goes to theatre)

Note that when “ni-ni” is used with subjects which are plural, the verb will be plural as well. As in the above sentence: mi madre + mi padre = plural so that "van" is used not "va".


Essential words for being negative

jamás never

nada nothing

nadie no one

ni siquiera not even

ni .. ni neither .. nor

ninguno/a none

no no

nunca never

tampoco neither

Let's Practice

Which word is not a negative?

All Exercises