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Negation is an extremely important aspect of all communication. But what is it? Watch this video lesson to learn not only the meaning of negation, but how to avoid making common errors in your writing.

What Is Negation?

We use communication and language in order to express our ideas. One important aspect of communication is utilizing negation. In grammar, negation means using contradictory ideas in your sentences.

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Basically, negative sentences are the opposite of positive ones. Look at this sentence:Sarah goes to the movies.This is a positive sentence affirming where Sarah goes.

The opposite, or negated version, would be:Sarah does not go to the movies.This example should give you a basic understanding of negation. The rest of this lesson will discuss different methods for negation and how to avoid errors.

The Auxiliary Verb ‘Do’

The first way to use negation we actually saw in the previous example, ‘Sarah does not go to the movies.’ How did this sentence differ from the positive version? Hopefully, you noticed the words ‘does’ and ‘not’ were added to make the second sentence negative.

This method of negation uses the auxiliary verb ‘do’. Remember, verbs are the action words. Many sentences have more than one verb. In those cases, auxiliary verbs are used to indicate different shades of meaning. One common auxiliary verb added to the main verb for negation is ‘do’. The forms of do are ‘do’, ‘did’, and ‘does’.

When using negation, be sure to use the right form of ‘do’ and the word ‘not’, according to your sentence. For instance, if you have the positive sentence, ‘Mike jogged yesterday’, what would you add to negate it? You cannot simply add in the word ‘not’. Does ‘Mike jogged not yesterday’ sound right? Of course not. You need to use the auxiliary verb ‘do’ and, in this case, the past tense form ‘did’: ‘Mike did not jog yesterday.

‘Usually, when we use the auxiliary verb ‘do’ in negation, we use a contraction. A contraction involves combining two words using an apostrophe. When doing so, be sure to insert the apostrophe in the correct spot. For our example, ‘Mike didn’t jog yesterday.

‘ Note that the apostrophe takes the place of the ‘o’ and falls in between the ‘n’ and the ‘t’. Also, notice how ‘jogged’ in the affirmative sentence, changed to ‘jog’ in the negated one. Don’t forget to reformat your other verbs accordingly when you use negation.

Negative Adverbs

A second way to use negation in sentences is to use negative adverbs. Remember, adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. In this sentence, ‘Mark quickly ran to school,’ the word ‘quickly’ is an adverb because it modifies the verb ‘ran’. ‘Quickly’ shows how Mark ran.For negation, there are some adverbs that, when inserted into a sentence, immediately make that sentence negative. For example, compare these two sentences:Mark ran to school.

Mark never ran to school.Only one word was inserted into the second sentence: ‘never’. ‘Never’ is an adverb modifying the verb ‘ran’. ‘Never’ tells you how Mark ran. Other examples of negative adverbs are ‘seldom’ and ‘rarely’.When you use negative adverbs, the most common mistake is placing the adverb in the wrong place.

Using the previous example, what happens if you move the word ‘never’? ‘Mark ran to school never’ or ‘Never Mark ran to school.’ Would you say either of these? Of course not! This is because the adverb must be next to the verb. In addition, it’s usually in front of the verb and not behind. When you use negative adverbs, be sure to place the word in the correct spot.

Double Negative

A final common error in negation is the infamous double negative.

You have most likely heard this term many times before, but perhaps you’re not quite sure what it means and how to avoid it. A double negative occurs in a negative sentence that uses two negative elements. In simpler terms, you have used a double negative if you have two words in one sentence that indicate negation.Let’s look at an example.

She didn’t do nothing.Can you see the double negative? The words ‘didn’t’ and ‘nothing’ both imply negation. In reality, the double negatives would cancel each other out and the logical meaning of the sentence would be that she did do something. This is very confusing and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, remove one of the negative elements. Either ‘She did nothing’ or ‘She didn’t do anything.’Here are some more examples of double negatives.

Can you identify the two negative elements?Tim didn’t go nowhere.

  • ‘Didn’t’ and ‘nowhere’

Mark seldom didn’t jog.

  • ‘Seldom’ and ‘didn’t’

Sarah doesn’t never go to the movies.

  • ‘Doesn’t’ and ‘never’

Lesson Summary

To review, negation occurs in communication when a contradictory idea is expressed. Negation turns positive sentences into negative ones.

The most common way to negate a sentence is to use the auxiliary verb ‘do’. Remember, verbs are action words and auxiliary verbs are attached to other verbs to help express different shades of meaning. When making a sentence negative, insert the appropriate form of ‘do’ with the word ‘not’. When using the contraction, use an apostrophe in the place of the letter ‘o’ in the word ‘not’. Lastly, always remember to reformat the other verbs to maintain the proper meaning in your sentence.A second way to negate a sentence is to insert a negative adverb. Remember, adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

‘Seldom’, ‘never’, and ‘rarely’ are examples of adverbs that negate sentences. When using these, make sure to place the adverb next to the verb, usually in front of it.A final issue with negation is the double negative.

A double negative occurs when two negative elements are in one sentence. This makes the sentence logically confusing and unclear. To fix this, eliminate one of the negative elements.Remember to follow these tips when utilizing negation in your sentences and you’ll avoid the most common errors in negation.

Learning Outcomes

By watching this lesson, you learned how to:

  • Define what negation is and when it occurs
  • Describe ways to negate a sentence such as using auxiliary verbs and adverbs
  • Identify double negative errors
  • Proofread your own work for negation errors

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