A Quick Guide to Negatives in Spanish - My Daily Spanish
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A Quick Guide to Negatives in Spanish

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Okay, I’m usually a pretty positive person, but it’s time to get negative! Using negatives in Spanish is important, and can make your language seem a lot more sophisticated, so let’s look at how to do it (but stay positive throughout the lesson)!

Double negatives in Spanish are okay!

When making negative statements in Spanish, you can either use no (which means ‘no’ or ‘not’), or you can use a negative word with it! (Sometimes you can use the negative word without the no, but more on that later.)

Don’t let the apparent double negatives confuse you. We’re taught in English not to use double negatives, because a negative and a negative make a positive, so using it can get quite confusing (and grammatically incorrect), i.e.

I haven’t got nothing. = I have actually got something.

But in Spanish, a negative and a negative remain negative!

No tengo nada. = I haven’t got anything./I have got nothing.

Word order

The basic rule is that we put the no before the main verb in the phrase. If there are pronouns, then stick it in front of those. The other negative word (if applicable) goes right after the verb.

No voy a la biblioteca.

I don’t go to the library.

No voy nunca a la biblioteca

I never go to the library.

When using a compound tense (the perfect, the pluperfect, etc.), you still put the no before the verbs. You then put the other negative word after both verbs.

No he dicho nada.

I haven’t said anything.

No había venido nadie.

No one had arrived.

Okay, so earlier we said that negative words usually need to be used with no as well. However, sometimes it will be more natural to use the negative word alone, without no. In this case, you’d put the negative word before the verb(s).

No cantó nadie. → Nadie cantó.

Nobody sang.

No bailas nunca. → Nunca bailas.

You never dance.

Another simple way to use negatives is as one-word answers (so we don’t have to worry about word order!).

—¿Quieres tomar algo conmigo?

—No.

—Do you want to get a drink with me?

—No.

—¿Qué haces?

—Nada.

—What are you doing?

—Nothing.

—¿Has estado alguna vez en Brasil?

—¡Nunca!

—Have you ever been to Brazil?

—Never!

No

This one is versatile! It can simply mean ‘no,’ or it can mean ‘not’ when used to negate statements. Put it at the beginning of a phrase (before the verb, and before pronouns if there are any!).

—¿Vienes a la fiesta?

—No.

—Are you coming to the party?

—No.

Hay fruta en casa.

No hay fruta en casa.

There’s fruit at home.

There isn’t fruit at home.

Lo sé.

No lo sé.

I know.

I don’t know.

Me lo dio.

No me lo dio.

He gave it to me.

He didn’t give it to me.

Sometimes, no is used as a question tag. We can make a statement then stick a no on the end, to see if the person you’re talking to agrees or not.

Ana es muy inteligente, ¿no?

Ana is very intelligent, isn’t she?

Has hecho los deberes, ¿no?

You’ve done the homework, haven’t you?

La clase es mañana, ¿no?

The class is tomorrow, right?

Ni... ni...

This means ‘neither... nor....’  Its opposite is o... o... (‘either... or...).

Ni canto ni bailo.

I neither sing nor dance.

No canto ni bailo.

I don’t sing or dance.

Ni (siquiera)

Ni and ni siquiera mean ‘not even.’

No sé ni (siquiera) tocar el piano, y mucho menos el órgano.

I don’t even know how to play the piano, let alone the organ.

Ni (siquiera) Juan viene.

Not even Juan is coming.

Ni (siquiera) tengo una hora libre.

I don’t even have one hour free.

Nada

Nada means ‘nothing.’ It’s the opposite of algo (‘something’).

No dije nada.

I didn’t say anything.

No hay nada en la nevera.

There is nothing in the refrigerator.

Nada nos puede separar.

Nothing can separate us.

Nadie

This one means ‘no one’ or ‘nobody.’ Its opposite would be alguien (‘someone’/’somebody’).

¿No viste a nadie?

You didn’t see anyone?

No hay nadie en el equipo que me pueda ayudar.

There is no one on the team who can help me.

Aquí nadie se rinde.

Nobody quits here.

Ninguno/a/os/as

Ninguno means ‘not any.’ It’s what we call an ‘indefinite adjective,’ and it modifies a noun.

When it’s used before a masculine singular noun, ninguno becomes ningún.

No hay ninguna mujer en el edificio.

There aren’t any women/there are no women in the building.

No hay ningún hombre aquí.

There aren’t any men/there are no men here.

Ningún hombre en esta oficina sabe qué hacer en esta situación.

No man (none of the men) in this office knows what to do in this situation.

Ninguno/a/os/as

Similar to the above, this one means ‘neither one’/’none.’ This is an ‘indefinite pronoun,’ and it’s slightly different as it’s used as a replacement for the noun.

There’s no shortening to ningún in this case.

—¿Cuál chico prefieres?

—Pues ninguno.

—Which guy do you prefer?

—Well, neither/none.

—¿Tienes ideas?

—No, no tengo ninguna.

—Do you have ideas?

—No, I don’t have any/I have none.

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Nunca/Jamás

Usually, nunca and jamás mean ‘never.’(They can also be used in the sense of ‘ever,’ but don’t worry about that right now!) Naturally, their opposite is siempre (always).

No voy nunca a su casa.

I never go to her house.

Nunca vienes a mi casa.

You never come to my house.

Tampoco

Last but not least, this one means ‘(n)either.’ It’s the opposite of también (‘also’).

Ella no va tampoco.

She’s not going either.

—No quiero salir con David.

—Yo tampoco.

—I don’t want to go out with David.

—Me neither.

Tampoco quiere salir con nosotras.

Nor does he want to go out with us/he doesn’t want to go out with us either.

Quiz time!

Right, time to test out those negatives!

Choose the most appropriate response from the options.

  1. No quiero hablar con ___. (I don’t want to talk to anybody.)

  2. a. nada

    b. nadie

    c. ninguna

Click to reveal the correct answer

2. Él no tiene ___ familiares ___ amigos. (He has neither family nor friends.)

    a. ni, ni

    b. ni, o

    c. ningunos, ningunos

Click to reveal the correct answer

3. Yo ___ quiero ver esa película. (I don’t want to watch that movie either.)

    a. también

    b. jamás

    c. tampoco

Click to reveal the correct answer

4. Nadie va ___ a aquella clase. (Nobody ever goes to that class.)

    a. jamás

    b. ni

    c. nada

Click to reveal the correct answer

5. No existe ___ posibilidad de que vuelva contigo. (There is no chance that s/he will get back with you.)

    a. nada

    b. ninguna

    c. nunca

Click to reveal the correct answer

6. No compré ___ hoy. (I didn’t buy anything today.)

    a. ninguno

    b. ni siquiera

    c. nada

Click to reveal the correct answer

¡Muy bien!

If you’ve made it this far, good job! Every bit of Spanish practice is a ~positive~ step in your learning journey. Keep at it!

About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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