Spanish Negation: Super Quick Guide

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The following are the words most commonly used to make negative statements:

  • apenas - hardly, scarcely
  • nada - nothing
  • nadie - no one
  • ni - nor, not even
  • no - not
  • nunca or jamás - never

Negating a verb in Spanish

The basic patterns are as follows. Note that if a negative word follows a verb, the verb must also be preceded by a negative word: this is the so-called double negative construction:

Negating a Spanish verb
Positive Negative
Vamos We're going No vamos We aren't going
Lo han comprado they've bought it No lo han comprado They haven't bought it
Tengo algo I have something No tengo nada I don't have anything
Conozco a alguien I know someone No conozco a nadie I don't know anyone
Ana o María Ana or Maria ni Ana ni María neither Ana nor Maria
Vino con él o con ella He came with him or with her No vino ni con él ni con ella He didn't come with him or with her
algún día some day ningún día no day
Lo/le vi con alguna chica I saw him with some girl No lo/le vi con ninguna chica I didn't see him with any girl
Siempre llueve It always rains No llueve nunca It never rains

Negatives may be combined:

  • Apenas conoce a nadie. He hardly knows anyone.
  • Nunca sale con nadie. He never goes out with anyone.
  • Nadie compra nada. No one buys anything.
  • No te he visto nunca en ninguna parte con ninguna de ellas. I’ve never seen you anywhere with any of those girls/women.

Spanish negative words are also used in comparisons, where English uses anyone, anything, ever.

  • Está más guapa que nunca. She’s more attractive than ever.
  • Se acuesta antes que nadie. He goes to bed before anyone else.
  • Es más impresionante que nada que yo haya vieto hasta ahora. It’s more impressive than anything I’ve seen up until now.
  • Ni, or ni siquiera translate not... even:
  • Ni (siquiera) pienses en llamarme. Don’t even think about calling me.
  • Ni siquiera se acordó del cumpleaños de su mujer. He didn’t even remember his wife’s birthday.

Ninguno may be used as an adjective or a pronoun. Its forms are:

Singular Plural
Masculine ninguno ningunos
Feminine ninguna ningunas

But when it comes before a singular masculine noun it loses its final -o:

  • Ningún presidente americano se atrevería a decir eso. No American President would dare to say that.
  • Ninguna mujer inteligente defiende el machismo. No intelligent woman defends machismo.
  • ¿Libros? No tengo ninguno. Books? I haven't got a single one.

Nomás is much used in Latin America (but not in Spain) to mean just, barely:

  • Los vimos en la entrada nomás. We saw them right in the entrance. (Spain en la misma entrada)
  • Te llamará nomás llegue a casa. I’ll call you as soon as I get home. (Spain nada más llegue en cuanto llegue...)

No words should be inserted between the auxiliary verb haber and the Past Participle in Compound tenses:

  • No lo he hecho nunca. I’ve never done it (not no lo he nunca hecho)

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