"I am not hungry no more."

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If I wanted to say that I am not hungry I could leave out the "no more" so shouldn't the "no more" cancel out the "not hungry" to mean that you are hungry. However other examples, like "I don't love her no more", still make me think that the meaning doesn't change but I don't see how this is grammatically correct and think "anymore" should be used instead. "I am not hungry anymore." So why dont the two negatives in the original sentence cancel each other out?

ChadThunder

Posted 2017-05-02T06:58:42.547

Reputation: 1 004

Question was closed 2017-05-28T03:04:28.723

4They should but, the negation is so emphatic that it stresses it. Like in "We don't need no education". It still means We don't need any education. – SovereignSun – 2017-05-02T07:52:45.993

4@SovereignSun "I ain't not never done nuffink to no one". Emphatic, and it works. There are an odd number of negatives - therefore the result is negative. – WS2 – 2017-05-02T07:58:28.293

1That's because the result is a sum of the parts, not a product of the parts. What I mean is that the emphasis is a result of (I am not hungry) + (no more), not (I am not hungry) x (no more). It's addition, not multiplication. – Teacher KSHuang – 2017-05-02T08:16:54.943

1@TeacherKSHuang It's not exactly a sum, it's a supplementation. The "no more" stresses the "I am not hungry". Although -1+-1 gives -2 we should treat it as a "I am not hungry, no more" – SovereignSun – 2017-05-02T08:35:52.990

1To the OP: Had you been able to understand my metaphor about the sentence being an addition math problem, not a multiplication math problem? In the meantime, thanks, @SovereignSun, for the technical input! – Teacher KSHuang – 2017-05-02T08:46:04.257

3@TeacherKSHuang Formally speaking, negatives are always multiplicative in English. Informally they are not. – SteveES – 2017-05-02T09:07:06.687

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You might find the answers to this question on ELU helpful: https://english.stackexchange.com/q/31667

– SteveES – 2017-05-02T09:10:18.647

3To the OP: Yes, I'd agree with SteveES. I hadn't thought about formally, but he's right, we are not disinclined from using such construction in our speech. I should have been more specific that my comment only applies in certain examples. As usual, context is king. Thanks, @SteveES! – Teacher KSHuang – 2017-05-02T10:41:00.367

Answers

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Grammatically speaking, in standard/formal English a negative negates something. Two negatives together form something called a double negative, where the second negative reverses the first one. This is not the case in all languages, but it is in formal/standard English.

The sentence you propose means that you are [no longer] [not hungry], which means that you were "not hungry", but this is no longer the case (so you are hungry now). Also, "following the rules", the example provided by @SovereignSun in comments "We don't need no education" actually means "We [do not need] [a lack of education]", i.e. "we are open to getting some education". Obviously, the intended meaning is "We don't need any education". I suspect this may be part of the protest message of the song - using "ungrammatical English" to state a dislike for rigid school rules.

Colloquially, however, double negatives are often taken to mean, or even to emphasise, the negative, especially in certain dialects. E.g. "I don't know nothing" would be taken to mean "I don't know anything", not "I know something" (which is what it means in standard/formal English). Most double negatives that you will hear employ this use of negative concord to mean or emphasise a negative meaning. However, as this is a colloquial meaning, it should not be used in formal English, and can make you sound "uneducated" to some ears.

Just to add extra confusion, there are times where double negatives are used grammatically to good effect, where everyone would understand you (especially spoken with appropriate emphasis). E.g. "I couldn't not help him", which means I had to help him.

As is the case with many things, context is required to understand the meaning of a double negative. A good example of this would be the phrase "can't do nothing", which would rely entirely on context for you to understand the intended meaning. It could be used either as a positive:

We can't do nothing! We've got to do something to help!

Or (colloquially) as a negative:

It's broken, I can't do nothing to fix it.

Because of this potential for confusion (especially out of context), and because negative concord is used colloquially, but not formally, I would in general not recommend using double negatives.

So therefore, you can use "I am not hungry no more" and people will understand what you mean, but saying "I am not hungry any more" is more grammatically correct, and is the form you should use in formal prose.

SteveES

Posted 2017-05-02T06:58:42.547

Reputation: 4 574

6+1 The last point is valid and very common. It's like in "It isn't an uninteresting story" or "Her face wasn't unfamiliar to me" – SovereignSun – 2017-05-02T09:17:10.100

2The double negative is commonly used - intentionally or otherwise - as a way to reinforce the negative message. We don't need education sounds like a mild statement of fact, while We don't need no education sounds somewhat more emphatic, if not outright aggressive. – flith – 2017-05-02T10:56:18.907

1@flith This is true informally (especially in speech/song lyrics), but it isn't grammatically correct. Grammatically it should be We don't need any education, or We need no education. – SteveES – 2017-05-02T11:02:26.827

2@SteveES, completely agreed. I was just adding a little informal context to the (often artistically intentional, and sometimes grammatically ignorant) common usage of the double negative. And say what you like about grammatical rules, English isn't always used correctly, especially for artistic effect, which is certainly something that a learner needs to be aware of. Context is king. – flith – 2017-05-02T11:04:39.663

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This answer is ridiculously wrong and confusing: We don't need no education is not logical double negation in any way, and is not blanket "ungrammatical" as you say. This is an example of negative concord, which is very common in various English dialects in addition to many other languages around the world. Just because it's unacceptable in formal, written English doesn't mean it's "ungrammatical". A learner of English should recognize this and understand when it's appropriate and when it's not. (1/2)

– errantlinguist – 2017-05-02T14:10:46.300

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In contrast to this, Wikipedia describes it quite well. (2/2)

– errantlinguist – 2017-05-02T14:14:30.573

1@errantlinguist I agree that Wikipedia explains it well, but it is a lengthy explanation. I don't think my answer is "ridiculously wrong". I would argue that, using a double negative to mean a negative is the opposite of what the rules of the most common "standard Englishes" impose, so it is "grammatically incorrect". If you stick to "the rules" then you stand the most chance of being understood by everyone, especially in writing (where emphasis and tone are difficult to get across). I did explain that colloquially, in certain dialects, it can have a negative meaning. – SteveES – 2017-05-02T14:31:36.853

@errantlinguist I would also be interested to see why you say "We don't need no education is not logical double negation". Maybe I can learn something :) – SteveES – 2017-05-02T14:33:14.193

@errantlinguist "We need no education" means we require to not be educated. "We don't need no education" therefore means we do not require to not be educated, which implies at least an openness to education, following the rules of grammar in standard English. – SteveES – 2017-05-02T14:57:26.983

4In spoken English "We need no education" means "we need to not be educated." On the other hand, "We need no education" means that we are not in need of education. – Adam – 2017-05-02T15:26:20.397

2In standard English, two negatives in sentences like this don't make no positive. They make a grammatical error. But two negatives are not unheard of in sentences like this, and indeed they make a positive. – Peter Shor – 2017-05-03T00:35:28.370

9

It seems you've observed two phenomena related to negation which look similar but do not have the same meaning:

Negative concord

This is a completely normal way of negating sentences in some English dialects and can also be used to emphasize a negative statement in others. However, this would never be I am not hungry no more but rather I'm not hungry no more or even I ain't hungry no more, both of which mean the same as I'm not hungry any more in English as learned in most textbooks — the fact that you have to use contractions is a hint that it's not acceptable in formal English.

The way you use negative concord is to use the negated version of each part of the sentence which has a negative counterpart, e.g. We don't need no education: The same sentence with all the negated parts replaced with positive-polarity ones would be We need some education, because don't ("do not") is the negation of phrases headed by the verb do, and both no and some are quantifiers for the noun education. This is analogous to how it's done in languages for which negative concord is used even in formal contexts, e.g. Russian's nam ne nuzhno nikakovo obrazovaniya (нам не нужно никакого образования) (literally "we don't need no education").

(Logical) double negation

This phenomenon is a bit trickier to understand — It's when a negative statement is negated itself, typically in conversation:

  • Waiter: (To Bill) Can I offer you some more filet mignon marinated in a truffle-shiitake mushroom sauce?
  • Ted: No, it's all right: Bill isn't hungry any more.
  • Bill: I'm not not hungry anymore!— What on Earth are you talking about? (Bill actually wants the filet mignon very much)

Note that I am not hungry no more can't be used for logical double negation in this way, either: The way you form a logical double negation is to actually use phrasal negation twice, e.g. He isn't not hungry or We don't not need education. As a native speaker, I interpret I am not hungry no more as having the same meaning as I'm not hungry any more but it sounds very strange because it involves the full forms I am rather than the contraction I'm, as explained above.

Lastly, what's even more subtle and often confusing is that, sometimes, even what looks like a "logical" double negation doesn't have the same pragmatic meaning as the "logical positive" of the statement:

  • Bill likes John — "John is a person whom Bill likes"
  • Bill doesn't like John — "John is not a person whom Bill likes"
  • Bill doesn't not like John — Note that this doesn't mean the exact same thing that Bill likes John does: In reality, it actually means something more like "Bill doesn't like John, but he doesn't dislike/hate John either".

errantlinguist

Posted 2017-05-02T06:58:42.547

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