Maestro Spanish

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Talking About the Negative

Even the most optimistic of us sometimes need to talk about things in the negative. In English, we have a whole collection of words for this, so as you might imagine, Spanish does too. In this article we'll explore those words.

To get us started is the Spanish word no. In addition to meaning "no" (the English word), no can mean "not", as well as serving the purpose of an auxiliary word, or an "extra" word attached to other negatives. Before we get too far, let's look at these other words:

Spanish English
nada nothing
nadie nobody
nunca never
ningúno,-a not a single one
ni not even
ni.... ni neither... nor
tampoco not either

Unless one of these words begins a sentence, it will also have an auxiliary no near it:

Spanish English
¿Qué sabes? What do you know?
Nada. No sé nada. Nothing. I know nothing.

See how the extra no is there?

Spanish English
¿Cuándo vas a ir? When are you going?
Nunca. No voy a ir nunca. Never. I am never going.

As shown above, ni means not even. Sometimes you will see ni siquiera, which means the same thing.

Ni... ni means neither... nor.

Puedes llamar ni él ni ella. → You can neither call him nor her.

Tampoco can be a little tricky, because it is used to answer también questions in the negative. In English, we use not... either or neither.

¿Vas a ir mañana también? Sí, voy a ir también. No, no voy a ir tampoco.

See how the word changes in the negative? This is differen from English, where you might respond, "Yes, I am also going tomorrow." versus "No, I am not also going tomorrow."

You will often here the expression, "Yo tampoco.", which is just "Me neither." and is the opposite of "Yo también", which is "Me too".

Note: You can combine this with ni to get something like "He doesn't work, and neither does his father."

No trabaja, ni su padre tampoco.

For ningún@, keep in mind that you drop the -o when it is used before a masculine noun, like many other adjectives.

Ningún libro tiene la repuesta. → "Not a single book has the answer."

You can combine ningún@ with "parte" or "lugar" to mean "no where" → Ningúna parte, or Ningún lugar

Last thing, for a little extra fun, if you want to say something that expresses that either a person or a thing does not exist in your mind, use the subjunctive after a negative word / expression:

En esta ciudad no hay ningún restaurante que tenga auténtica comida mexicana.

¿Cuál libro te gusta? No hay nada aquí que me guste.