Spanish negation: How to form negatives in Spanish

Mastering Spanish Negatives: A Complete Guide for Negative Sentences

MAURA (Lights turn off)
¡Ahh! ¡No veo nada!
(Ahh! I can’t see anything!)
MAURA (Lights turn off)
Espera, ¿no estábamos hablando de algo?
(Wait, weren’t we talking about something?)

Hi there! Of course! Today, we’re talking about five different moments when Spanish uses negatives and how to form Spanish negations.

My name is Maura, I’m a teacher at Spring Spanish, thank you for being here and… ¡Empecemos!

1. Spanish negation basic negative structure

ALEX
Las negaciones en español son súper simples, ¿verdad? Mucho más que en inglés, por ejemplo.
(Spanish negatives are super simple, right? Much more than in English, for example.)
MAURA
Definitivamente. En español sólo necesitas un “no” delante del verbo.
(Definitely. In Spanish you just need a “no” in front of the verb.)
ALEX
Pero no es la única forma de negar, ¿o sí?
(But it’s not the only way to negate, is it?)
MAURA
Hay varias estructuras que se consideran negaciones, pero la más básica y común es esta. Un “no” y luego un verbo.
(There are several structures that are considered negations, but the most basic and common one is this. A “no” and then a verb.)

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There really isn’t much more to negatives than what I told Alex. You add “no” in front of the verb and that’s it!

  • Me encanta la playa. (I love the beach.): No me encanta la playa. (I don’t love the beach.)
  • Ellos fueron a Grecia. (They went to Greece.): Ellos no fueron a Grecia. (They didn’t go to Greece.)
  • El vestido es verde. (The dress is green.): El vestido no es verde. (The dress is not green.)

The only change you might find is that sometimes there’s a subject in front of “no” and sometimes there isn’t. For example:

Structure without subject: “no” + verb

  • No me invitaron a la playa. (I wasn’t invited to the beach.)
  • No logré hacer la mitad de lo que tenía planeado ayer. (I didn’t manage to do half of what I had planned yesterday.)
  • No lo puede creer. (She/He can’t believe it.): This could be both about “él” (he) or “ella” (she). The context will tell you.

Structure with subject: subject + “no” + verb

  • Yo no como carne. (I don’t eat meat.)
  • Carla no puede venir porque está trabajando. (Carla can’t come because she is working.)
  • Madrid no tiene mucha gente en verano. (Madrid does not have many people in summer.)

You would use the subject if you need to make clear who you’re talking about. Sometimes the context already accounts for it so it’s not necessary. Using subjects and/or pronouns in Spanish is a matter of familiarization and practice, click here to understand this better.

2. Spanish negation words that are negatives in themselves

ALEX
¿Qué otra cosa se considera negación, entonces?
(What else is considered a negation, then?)
MAURA
Todas las palabras que niegan sin necesidad de decir “no”.
(All words that negate without the need to say “no”.)
ALEX
¿Como “nada”?
(Like “nothing”?)
MAURA
Exacto. Hay varias palabras que funcionan igual que “nada”.
(Exactly. There are several words that work the same as “nothing”.)The following words are considered negatives in themselves:

Negative words

Negative wordNegative chunk
Nada (Nothing)Yo solo sé que no sé nada. (I just know that I don’t know anything.) English, of course, would work the same way. Like: “nada importa” would be “nothing matters”. Neither language needs a “no” here.
Nadie (Nobody)Nadie dijo que iba a ser fácil. (Nobody said it was going to be easy.)
Ninguno (None)Ninguno de ustedes sabe lo mucho que agradezco que estén aquí. (None of you know how grateful I am that you are here.)
Nunca (Never)¡Nunca había sido tan feliz! (I’ve never been so happy!)
Tampoco (Neither)Tampoco crean que es que estoy feliz todo el tiempo. (Don’t think I’m happy all the time either.)
Ni (Nor)Ni que no me pongo triste de tanto en tanto. (Nor that I don’t get sad from time to time.)

This example of course works in combination with the previous one. Tampoco crean que es que estoy feliz todo el tiempo. (Don’t think I’m happy all the time either.) Ni que no me pongo triste de tanto en tanto. (Nor that I don’t get sad from time to time.):

Now check them out in action:

ALEX
Yo nunca he tenido tanto calor en mi vida. De verdad que nadie es capaz de soportar este calor.
(I have never been so hot in my life. Really, no one is able to stand this heat.)
MAURA
Lo sé y no hay nada que puedas hacer. Excepto encender el aire acondicionado todo el día.
(I know and there’s nothing you can do. Except turn on the air conditioning all day.)
ALEX
Sí, pero eso tampoco es bueno para el ambient.
(Yes, but that’s not good for the environment either.)
MAURA
Ni barato para el bolsillo.
(Nor cheap for the pocket.)
ALEX
¡Total! ¡Ninguna de las dos cosas!
(Totally! Neither of the 2!)

CHUNK ALERT

De tanto en tanto (From time to time) is a good indefinite time chunk you can use every time you mean “sporadically”. The literal translation would be something crazy like: from so much in so much. Not very useful! Unlike this chunk I do use more than de tanto en tanto (from time to time.)

3. Spanish double negatives

MAURA
Sí hay diferencias con la negación del inglés. La doble negación es el mejor ejemplo.
(There are differences with the English negation. The double negative is the best example.)
ALEX
¿Qué es la “doble negación”?
(What is the “double negative”?)
MAURA
Es una oración que niega dos veces. Es decir, usa “no” y también una de las palabras de negación que acabamos de ver.
(It is a sentence that negates twice. That is, it uses “no” and also one of the negation words we have just seen.)
ALEX
Ahhh, por eso puedo decir cosas como: “no veo nada”.
(Ahhh, that’s why I can say things like: “I don’t see nothing”.)
MAURA
Exactamente.
(Exactly.)

Essentially, those negative words we saw in the previous section can be paired with the word “no” in Spanish. This mostly happens for emphasis. So, you can take the list of those words and create double negatives by also adding a “no” to them, like:

Double Negatives

Negative wordDouble negative chunk
Nada (Nothing)No quiero saber nada sobre eso. (I don’t want to know anything about it.)
Nadie (Nobody)Por favor no le cuentes a nadie. (Please don’t tell anyone.)
Ninguno/Ningún (None)No hay ningún pasaje más barato. (There is no cheaper ticket.)
Nunca (Never)Nadie nunca supo qué pasó. (No one ever knew what happened.): We can even combine more than one negative word!
Tampoco (Neither)No invites a tanta gente tampoco. (Don’t invite so many people either.)
Ni (Nor)No hay ni que preocuparse. (There is no need to worry.)

4. Spanish negative questions

MAURA
Por otra parte, sí tenemos ciertas similitudes con la negación en inglés.
(On the other hand, we do have certain similarities with the English negation.)
ALEX
¿Cómo qué?
(Like what?)
MAURA
Preguntar en negative.
(Asking in negative.)
ALEX
Una pregunta negativa es lo mismo que una pregunta normal, pero empieza con “no”, ¿correcto?
(A negative question is the same as a normal question, but starts with “no”, correct?)
MAURA
¡Correctísimo!
(Very correct!)

The negative question structure in Spanish would simply be: “No” + verb. Like:

  • Te dije lo que hice el fin pasado. (I told you what I did last weekend.): ¿No te dije lo que hice el fin pasado? (Didn’t I tell you what I did last weekend?)
  • No tenías hambre. (You weren’t hungry.): ¿No que no tenías hambre? (Weren’t you not hungry?): notice that you can have two “no” as well in the same sentence.
  • ¿Es mejor si esperamos un poco? (It’s better if we wait a bit?): ¿No es mejor si esperamos un poco? (Isn’t it better if we wait a bit?)

5. Practice Spanish negations

As you can see, “no” and negative words like “ni” or “nada” are very free in Spanish. They can all be combined together, they can ask questions and they can be followed by any conjugation. Let’s now test out how much you got.

Turn these two sentences into negatives:

  1. A mí me gusta mucho cocinar.*** (I like cooking very much.)

Answer: A mí no me gusta cocinar. (I don’t like to cook.)

  1. ¿Te gusta bailar? (Do you like to dance?)

Answer: ¿No te gusta bailar? (Don’t you like dancing?)

Fill in the blanks with negative words:

  1. ¡Dos kilómetros no es __________! Mi suegra corre cinco todos los días. (2 km is nothing! My mother-in-law runs 5 every day.)

Answer: ¡Dos kilómetros no es nada! Mi suegra corre cinco todos los días. (2 km is nothing! My mother-in-law runs 5 every day.)

  1. Tengo muchos pantalones pero no me gusta ____________. (I have a lot of pants but I don’t like any of them.)

Answer: Tengo muchos pantalones pero no me gusta ninguno. (I have a lot of pants but I don’t like any of them.)

“No” is also part of one of the weirdest things Spanish can do. We ask for confirmation with “no”, with “si” and with both of them together “si, ¿no?”. I know it sounds funny but I got you. Continue this lesson with me by clicking the image on the screen and learning all about this weird part of the Spanish logic. ¡Nos vemos allá! ¡Besos!

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