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!