OBS E RV I NG AND
RE COGNI S I NG
L I NGUI S T I C
DI VERSI T Y
Clause negation in English and other languages
1. Classification of Negative Sentences in English Language
1.a. Grammatically incorrect sentences
1.b. All grammatically correct sentences express negative meaning?
Any problem classifying?
2. Grammatical rules concerning clause negation in English
3. Comparison of a set of negative sentences in both English and French
4. English rules of negation apply to French Language?
5. Rules of clause negation in French.
Together with your partner analyse the following sentences
carefully, illustrating the clause negation rules in English.
don‟t like your new haircut.‟
2. „We met not our old friends at a party yesterday.‟
3. „You mustn‟t show this document to anybody.‟
4. „He won‟t help me.‟
5. „I fail to see any further consequences of her behaviour.‟
6. „None of them were ready.‟
7. „Neither of us has ever heard about it.‟
8. „No dogs are permitted inside this shop, aren‟t they?‟
9. „The place had scarcely changed in ten years.‟
10. „None of us have never told lies.‟
11. „You must never do that.‟
12.„They haven‟t told him the truth.‟
13.„It‟s not a secret.‟
14.„Hardly anyone saw him there.‟
15.„No one helped us.‟
Sentences from Sample 1
Type C: by using a
word negative in
It’s not a secret.
Type B: by using a
word negative in
form and meaning
I don‟t like your new haircut.
‘We met not our old friends at a party yesterday.’
You mustn‟t show this document to anybody.
He won‟t help me.
They haven‟t told him the truth.
Type A: though verb
‘No dogs are permitted inside this shop, aren‟t they?’
None of them were ready.
Neither of us has ever heard about it.
You must never do that.
No one helped us.
„No dogs are permitted inside this shop, aren’t they?’
None of us have never told lies.’
I fail to see any further consequences of her behaviour.
The place had scarcely changed in 10 years.
Hardly anyone saw him there.
Write the numbers of the grammatically incorrect sentences. Explain
why you think they are grammatically incorrect?
In sentence number 2 it is necessary the auxiliary verb, when we make the negation, so
instead of „We met not our old friends at a party yesterday.‟ the correct is `we didn t meet
our friends at a party yesterday .
Sentences number 8 is also incorrect because if we use a questions tag in the
sentence, we must haven into account the following rules:
A) When the main
clause is affirmative,
the questions tag is
B ) When the main
clause is negative
, the questions tag is
Can all grammatically correct sentences from Sample 1 be classified as
sentences that express negative meaning? Are there any sentences in Sample 1
that you have a problem classifying?
No, it can´t. Because the sentence
”None of us have never told lies”
is completely positive in meaning;
in this sentence there are two
negation elements and in English
language it means that the
sentence has positive meaning, in
this case this sentence means that
everyone has told a lie at some
Yes, there is. Only one sentence has
been problematic to classify: “No
dogs are permitted inside this
shop, aren‟t they?” We have had a
doubt when we were classifying the
sentences of sample 1 because we
weren ´t sure to which type of
negation it belongs to; on one other
hand, “No dogs” could be classified as
type b; by using a word negative in
form and meaning, but on the other
hand, “aren´t” could be classified as
type A: through verb negation.
Discuss your observations and with the teacher‟s help (if necessary) try to
formulate the grammatical rules concerning clause negation in English.
•Type A: through verb negation. When we negate something in present simple
we must add the auxiliary verb “do” plus “not” after the subject and before
the main verb. When we negate in others tenses we must respect the structure
and the order and the only one change it will be the corresponding auxiliary
verb that we are going to use depending on the tense. With the verb “to be”,
negation always will be after the “to be” verb.
•Type B: by using a word negative in form and meaning. Another type of
negation in English is by using words or expressions negative in form and
meaning as neither of us, none, no one, never. Others examples: nothing,
nowhere, no, nobody, neither…nor, not only, etc.
Type C: by using a word negative in meaning. These words are negative in
meaning and suggest a negative attitude; they are not negative in form just in
meaning. Some examples of the previous activities are: fail, scarcely, hardly.
Others examples are:
rarely, seldom, barely, ratter, completely, utterly, avoid, Two negation elements
make a sentence with positive meaning
Clause negation in others languages
Activity 2b, Part 2
Compare the set of negative sentences in the language chosen with the set of corresponding negative sentences in
1.None of them was without sorrow in his heart for having to 1.Aucuns d’eux ne cachaient son regret, de devoir abandonner cet
leave the beautiful place,
2.but they knew well that this fertile land, forests full of game 2.néanmoins ils savaient que même une terre si fertile et les forêts
and lakes full of fish could not feed them all….
pleines de bêtes ainsi que les lacs et les rivières remplis de
poissons ne nourriront pas tout le monde .....
3.Lech and Czech looked at each other with sadness because
they felt they would never see him again,
3.Lech et Czech se regardèrent avec tristesse, dans leurs yeux se
lisait la crainte de ne plus le revoir,
4.We shall not travel any further.
4.Nous ne voyagerons pas plus loin.
1. In this example in English, negation happens through a 1. Negation through verb negation.
negative word “None”.
2 . = English version
2. Both English and French versions make negative
3. Negation adverb “ne plus”.
sentences by verb negation.
4. =English version
3. Negation adverb “never”.
4. Negation through verb negation.
Activity 2b, Part 2
Check to see if the rules concerning clause negation in English apply to
the language which you analysed.
Rules concerning clause negation in English
apply to the French language that we have
analysed; as we can see, in French also there
are various ways of negation: by using verb
negation, by using a word negative in meaning,
negative preffixes forming words , etc.
Activity 2b, part 3
Try to define (with the help of the teacher) the rules of clause negation in the
language analysed and discussed.
Making negative sentences in French is a bit more complicated than in English.
Summary of the different kinds of negation and negation-related grammatical structures
which should help us:
Ne + verb + PAS :No…
Ne + verb + PLUS : no more, not again
Ne + verb + RIEN : Nothing
Ne + verb + PERSONNE : Nobody
Ne + verb + JAMAIS : Never
Ne + verb + AUCUN/E: anyone, anybody
2 negative elements in a clause =
emphasizing negative meaning of a clause
2 negative elements in a clause =
positive meaning clause
It is possible to develop our plurilingual competence working
with English and French grammar, as comparing any others.
As English teachers we must be aware that in English we can
have only one negative element in one clause to make the
clause negative or we will be doing sentences with a positive
meaning . That is not true about all languages!
We have chosen French Language to establish the comparison
with English because it is a language known by us. We think that
to choose French has permitted us to feel sure about our work.