Even Italians say no; in this article you will learn how to deliver a clear message when expressing negation. I will teach you how to use the most common phrases used on a daily basis and how to pronounce them correctly. First of all let’s see what the word negation means.
What is negation?
Negation is the word that indicates non-acceptance or refusal which can also turn an affirmative statement (I am hungry) into a negative one (I am not hungry). Some of the most used Italian negatives are “no”, “never”, “nothing” etc.
Let’s start with a list of 8 words about negation that are used frequently. Make sure you repeat each word after hearing it. Listening to the audio will surely help to improve your pronunciation.
The Italian word non (meaning not) is what you need to make a statement or a question negative:
|Non posso andare in palestra oggi.||I can’t go to the gym today.|
|Non hai il telefono?||Haven’t you got your phone?|
|Laura non vive qui.||Laura doesn’t live here.|
In English not or n’t comes after verbs. In Italian non comes in front of verbs
|Non è qua.||It’s not here|
|Non è venuto.||He didn’t come.|
|Mia cugina non ha la patente||My cousin hasn’t got a driving license.|
|Lui non è molto sincero||He’s not very sincere|
In English, sometimes to make sentences negative we must add don’t, doesn’t or didn’t before the main verb, however, in Italian you always have to just add non to the verb.
|Corrono||They run||Non corrono||They don’t run|
|Lo mangia||He/she eats it.||Non lo mangia||He/she doesn’t eat it.|
NEVER use the verb fare to translate don’t, doesn’t or didn’t in negatives.
If there are words such as mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li or le in front of the verb, non goes immediately in front of them.
|Non l’ho lavato.||I didn’t wash it.|
|Non mi piace il tennis||I don’t like tennis|
If you have a phrase made of not together with another word or phrase, such as not now, or not yet, use non before the other word.
|non ora||not now|
|non ancora||not yet|
|non sempre||not always|
|non dopo domenica||not after Sunday|
IF you want to emphasise or make a contrast, use no instead of non, and put it after the other word.
Ora no, dopo. Not now, later
You must use no instead of non in some phrases:
In the phrase o no (meaning or not)
|Vai o no?||Are you going or not?|
|Che le piaccia o no||whether she likes it or not|
In the phrase di no after some verbs:
|Sembra di no.||It doesn’t seem like it|
|Penso di no.||I don’t think so|
|Ha detto di no.||He said not.|
The use of the double negative
In grammatically correct English only one negative word must be used in a sentence: I’ve never been to Italy. In Italian we must use non followed by another negative word such as niente (meaning nothing), or mai, (meaning never).
|Non accade mai.||It never happens.|
|Non ha mangiato niente.||She didn’t eat anything.|
The phrases below are the most common phrases of this type.
|non … mai||never or not ever|
|Non la chiamo mai.||I never call her.|
# Tip Mai goes between the two parts of the perfect tense
|Non l’ho mai sgridata.||I’ve never shouted at her.|
|Non ci sono mai stato.||I’ve never been there.|
|non … niente||nothing or not …anything|
|Non ho fatto niente.||I didn’t do anything.|
|Non ho visto nessuno||I have seen nobody o I haven’t seen anybody|
|Non ho parlato con nessuno.||I didn’t speak with anybody.|
|Non sono andata da nessuna parte||I went nowhere or I didn’t go anywhere|
|Non riuscivo a metterlo da nessuna parte.||I couldn’t put it anywhere|
|non … nessuno/nessuna + noun||no or not … any|
|Non c’è nessun bisogno di alzare la voce.||There’s no need to raise your voice or|
There isn’t any need to raise your voice.
|non … più||no longer or not … any more|
|Non sono più insieme||They’re not together any more.|
|non …né … né …||neither … nor|
|Non mangeranno né carne né pesce.||They won’t eat neither meat nor fish|
If you start a sentence using a negative word such as nessuno or niente, do not use non with the verb that comes after it.
|Nessuno è arrivato.||Nobody arrived.|
|Niente è scontato.||Nothing is in discounted.|
|Non è arrivato nessuno.|
|Non è scontato niente.|
In Italian you can have more than one negative word following a negative verb.
|Non mangi mai niente.||You never eat anything.|
|Non esce mai con nessuno.||He/she never goes out with anyone.|
As in English, negative words can be used on their own to answer a question
|Cosa avete rotto? – Niente.||What did you break? – Nothing.|
|Chi ti porta al cinema? – Nessuno.||Who’s going to take you to the cinema? – Nobody.|
The negative word “non” can introduce an interrogative sentence:
Scusa, non hai una sigaretta per me?
Excuse, do you have a cigarette for me?
Non avreste per caso delle scarpe da tennis?
Do you have trainers by any chance?
The interrogative introduced by “non” can have a strong emphatic value:
Al cinema non ho incontrato la mia ex-moglie?
At the cinema, I met my ex-wife, can you believe that?
Ancora tu? Ma non dovevamo non vederci più?
Is that you again? I thought we didn’t have to see each other anymore.
Furthermore, the negative word “non” can sometimes be avoided in interrogative sentences:
Hai visto niente? (Non hai visto niente?)
Conosci nessuno? (Non conosci nessuno?)
Ne sai nulla? (Non se sai nulla?)
Now read the sentences again while listening to my audio, enjoy!
- To make a verb negative put non in front of it.
- In Italian it is grammatically correct to follow non with another negative word.
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