Going Over Double Negatives

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 18:54
cinquecento in rome

When you’re talking in any language, it’s good to be able to say ‘I don’t want that’, or ‘I didn’t do that’. In Italian, you might already know the word for ‘no’ – no (make sure you say it with an Italian accent!). You may also know that you add non before a verb to make a negative sentence, so if you wanted to say ‘I don’t want an ice cream’ you would say non voglio un gelato.  

In English, the grammar rule is to only use one negative word in a sentence. We don’t say ‘I didn’t do nothing’, or ‘I didn’t see nobody’. However, in Italian you do use double negatives, or even triple or quadruple negatives! 

First let’s look at some common negative expressions.


Niente / nulla – nothing, anything

Nessuno – nobody, no one, anybody, anyone

Mai – never

Neanche, nemmeno, neppure – not even, neither

Né … né – neither … nor


You can use the Italian word for ‘not’ – non– in front of any of these negative expressions. For example,


Non voglio mangiare niente – I don’t want to eat anything

Non sente nulla – She doesn’t hear anything

Non viene nessuno – Nobody is coming

Non c’è nessuno a casa – No one is at home

Non guardo mai la television – I never watch television

Non andiamo mai in vacanza – We never go on holiday

Non mi ha nemmeno risposto – He didn’t even answer me

Non voglio tornare a casa / Neanche io!

I don’t want to go home / Me neither!

Non mi va di studiare né latino né matematica – I don’t feel like studying Latin or Maths

Non ho né la sciarpa né i guanti, ho freddo! – I haven’t got a scarf or gloves, I’m cold!


There are other common expressions, such as

Non … ancora – not yet

Non … più – no longer, no more, not anymore

Non … affatto / non … mica  – not at all


Here are some examples:


Non siete ancora arrivati? – Are you not there yet?

Non ho più sete – I am not thirsty anymore

Non l’ho mica detto! – I didn’t say it at all!


It is not unusual to use three or four negatives in one sentence, such as this:


Flavia non dice mai niente a nessuno – Flavia never says anything to anyone


There are some common negative expressions which can be useful to learn, here is a selection:


Neanche per sogno! – Not even in your dreams!

Neanche per scherzo! – Don’t even joke about it! / Forget it!


A final note, to watch out for the false negative finché non, which isn’t a negative at all! It means ‘until’ or ‘as long as’. Here is an example: 


Non uscirai finché non avrai finito di studiare – You won’t go out until you have finished studying


Make sure you study and good luck with your Italian negatives!