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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.

No

Niente

Non ancora

Nessuno

Non più

Mai

Non posso

Non dovrei

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 patenteMy cousin hasn’t got a driving license.
Lui non è molto sinceroHe’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.

PositiveNegative
CorronoThey runNon corronoThey don’t run
Lo mangiaHe/she eats it.Non lo mangiaHe/she doesn’t eat it.

 

 

NEVER use the verb fare to translate don’tdoesn’t or didn’t in negatives.

If there are words such as mitilo, 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 tennisI 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 oranot now
non ancoranot yet
non semprenot always
non dopo domenicanot 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 nowhether 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 … mainever 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 … nientenothing or not …anything
Non ho fatto niente.I didn’t do anything.

 

Non ho visto nessunoI 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 parteI went nowhere or I didn’t go anywhere
Non riuscivo a metterlo da nessuna parte.I couldn’t put it anywhere

 

non … nessuno/nessuna + nounno 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 … piùno longer or not … any more
Non sono più insiemeThey’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.
BUT
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!

Remember

  • To make a verb negative put non in front of it.
  • In Italian it is grammatically correct to follow non with another negative word.

We are at the end of this lesson; if you liked it share it with someone who could benefit from it too.

Thank you for reading, if you have any questions hit me up at raffaella@languagesalive.com

Raffaella Palumbo

Passionate about languages & good food. I hold a Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and French, a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions and the CLTA teaching certificate. My hobby is chasing the sun around the globe. My favourite quote: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” (Frank Smith)

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