How to Use Negative Words in Spanish

Negative words SpanishNegative words in Spanish do not work in the same way as in English. If you try to translate a negative sentence from Spanish directly into English it will not sound right.

For example, in English we do not use double negatives whereas in Spanish they do.

e.g. No tiene nada que hacer. – Literal translation: He doesn’t have nothing to do.

(This is incorrect English and anyway, this would mean that he does have something to do, so is not negative.)

You will also find that you do not hear plural nouns used in negative sentences. You always use the noun in the singular form.

e.g. No hay problema.There are no problems.

In this blog post we will teach you everything you need to be able to make up your own negative sentences.

Positive – Negative pairs

The best way to get these clear in your head and to work out which you need is to learn them in pairs; the positive word and its opposite negative form.

Positive – Negative

algo (something)nada (nothing)
alguien (someone)nadie (nobody)
algún / alguna (some/any)ningún / ninguna (none/any*)
algunos / algunasningunos / ningunas
siempre (always)nunca (never)
también (also)tampoco (neither/either)
y/o (and/or) ni (neither)

How to form a simple negative sentence in Spanish

If you don’t need any of the words above then it is easy to form a negative sentence in Spanish. Often you just need to place “no” before the verb:

Positive:

Tengo tiempo.I have time.

Negative:

No tengo tiempo.I don’t have time.

If you add in a name or subject pronoun (yo, tú, él, ella, usted, nosotros, vosotros, ellos/as, ustedes) then that will go first, followed by the “no” followed by the verb:

María no come pescado. – Maria doesn’t eat fish.

Nosotros no trabajamos los lunes. – We don’t work on Mondays.

Answering questions negatively:

If someone asks you a question and you need to reply negatively then you need to use “no” twice because in Spanish this is how they say “don’t”:

¿Tienes una mascota?Do you have a pet?
No, no tengo una mascota.No, I don’t have a pet.

However if you wanted to emphasise that you don’t have “any” pets, you would need to add in an extra negative word for “any”.

No, no tengo ninguna mascota.No, I don’t have any pets.

Notice that in English we use the noun in the plural “pets”, but in Spanish negative sentence it stays singular, “mascota”.

* Note: in English we think of “any” as a positive word, however if you are forming a negative sentence in Spanish, every word has to be the negative form, hence why we have used “ninguna” here and not “alguna”.

Similarly, other words like “anybody” and “ever” need to be the negative form in Spanish when used in a negative sentence.

No hablo con nadie nunca en inglés.I don’t speak with anybody ever in English.

Negative pairs: siempre / nunca

This is quite straightforward to use. Use “siempre” to talk about what you “always” do and “nunca” to talk about what you “never” do.

Siempre vamos a España en julio. – We always go to Spain in July.

Nunca vamos a España en julio. – We never go to Spain in July.

You can also use “nunca” to talk about things that you “have never done”.

Nunca he volado en un helicóptero. – I have never flown in a helicopter.

With “nunca” and “siempre” you have two options as to where to place them in the sentence. You can either put them at the beginning as we have in the examples above, in which case you do not also need a “no”. Or you can place them after the verb or at the end of the sentence. If you put them at the end then you also need to put a “no” before the verb:

No he volado en un helicóptero nunca.

Vamos a España en julio siempre.

Negative pairs: alguien / nadie

alguien = someone
nadie = no one / nobody

To talk about “someone” or “anyone” in the positive sense you use “alguien”:

¿Hay alguien en la oficina? – Is there someone/anyone in the office?

To talk about “nobody/no one” use “nadie”:

No hay nadie en la oficina. – There is no one in the office.

Negative pair: Algo – nada

algo = something
nada = nothing / anything

Let’s look at some examples of when to use these:

Positive: Hay algo en la caja. – There is something in the box.

Negative: No hay nada en la caja. – There is nothing in the box.

Forming a question:

¿Hay algo en la caja? – Is there something in the box?
No, no hay nada en la caja. – No, there is nothing in the box.

Remember, when answering a question in a negative way, you will need to use “no” twice.

Negative pair: alguno / ninguno

These work as adjectives or pronouns so they must agree with the noun they are referring to so there are both masculine and feminine forms as well as singular and plural forms:

algún – ningún
alguna – ninguna
algunos – ningunos
algunas – ningunas

You also find “alguno” and “ninguno” when replacing a masculine noun.

Let’s look at some positive examples:

Hay algunas flores en el jardín. – There are some flowers in the garden.
¿Hay algún bolígrafo por aquí? – Is there some/any pen around here?
Algunos estudiantes son buenos. – Some students are good.
¿Hay alguna farmacia cerca de aquí? – Is there any chemist near here?

Negative examples:

No hay ningunas flores en el jardín. – There aren’t any flowers in the garden./There are no flowers in the garden.
Ningún estudiante es bueno. – No students are good. (You rarely find “ninguno” as plural.)
No hay ninguna farmacia cerca de aquí. – There isn’t any chemist near here.

Uncountable nouns

If you are using uncountable nouns such as: money, water, sugar, bread, milk, cheese, then you never use “alguno” or “ninguno”. Instead you would use “algo de …” or in the negative sense “nada de …”.

Let’s see some examples:

Queda algo de agua en la botella. – There is a bit of water left in the bottle.
No queda nada de agua en la botella. – There is no water left in the bottle.


Tengo algo de dinero. – I have some money.

No hay nada de dinero en la cartera. – There is no money in the wallet.

Negative pair: y/o / ni

These are used to say and/or and in the negative: neither / nor.

¿Prefieres carne o pescado? – Do you prefer meat or fish?

Yo no me gusta (ni) carne ni pescado. – I don’t like either meat nor fish.

Elena y Carmen quieren ir al cine. – Elena and Carmen want to go to the cinema.

Ni Elena ni Carmen quieren ir al cine. – Neither Elena nor Carmen want to go to the cinema.

Note here that “no” isn’t needed at the start of the sentence because we already have a negative word “ni” at the beginning.

Negative pair; también / tampoco

Tampoco (neither / either) is the negative of “también” (also).

Let’s see some examples:

Quiero salir esta noche. – I want to go out tonight.
Yo también.Me too.

Negative equivalents:

No quiero salir esta noche. – I don’t want to go out tonight.
Yo tampoco.Me neither.

Hopefully from the above explanation and examples you will be able to start to form your own negative sentences.

 
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