Grammar Linguistics

How To Make a Sentence Negative in Spanish

Today, we’ll learn how to make negative sentences. To do that, we’ll focus on some words we can use (and actually need to use!) to change the meaning of a sentence. Ready? Let’s go!

Which words to use

To make our sentences negative, we’ll need the help of negative words such as no (no, not), ni (nor), nunca (never), nada (nothing), nadie (nobody), tampoco (neither), sino (but), etc.

To begin, let’s take a look at how we use the word no. In Spanish, no can be used as a translation of “no” or “not” in English, and it will always be placed before the verb in a sentence. For example:

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This is an affirmative sentence in which we’re saying that the color of the moon is white. But what if we want to deny that statement? Well, we just need to add the word no before the verb (which in this case is es):

Here are a couple more examples:

In all three sentences above, no is placed before the verb (es, están, está). With this simple rule, we’ve just started to build our first negative sentences in Spanish. 

But are there any exceptions to this rule? The answer’s yes. For example, when using the present indicative tense, the word no is placed before the pronoun instead of before the verb: 

Image by Kanenori from Pixabay
Full moon tonight!

In the above instance, we place the word no right at the beginning of the sentence, before the pronoun. In these scenarios, you would never say something like “Me gusta no ver la luna,” as it would sound odd.

Answering questions in the negative 

It is also useful to know how to make sentences negative when answering questions. Take the following question:

  • ¿Puedes ver las estrellas? (Can you see the stars?)

To reply in the affirmative, you would say:

  • Sí, puedo verlas. (Yes, I can see them.)

However, the way to answer that question negatively is a little different from the examples we provided earlier. You’ll need to add another no at the beginning of the answer:

  • No, no puedo verlas. (No, I can’t see them.)

Here are some more negative responses:

  • ¿Puedes dibujar un punto blanco? (Can you draw a white dot?)

  • No, no puedo. (No, I can’t.)

  • ¿Quieres ver hacia arriba? (Do you want to look up?)

  • No, no quiero. (No, I don’t want to.)

It’s important to know that in Spanish, it’s very common to answer direct questions by just saying no instead of providing a full sentence. In any case, you can see from the above responses that the word no is also placed before the verbs (puedo, quiero).

Note: As we mentioned above, there are more words we can use to make our sentences negative. We’ll focus on two of these, tampoco and sino, in our upcoming articles.

And that’s it: now you know the basics of how to make your Spanish sentences negative!

Written by Humberto Aparicio

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