A negative idea following "unless"


Is it acceptable to use a negation after "unless"? I know it's far from standard.

You don't love people. But you will succeed unless you don't like people.


Posted 2014-04-06T10:13:15.453

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There isn't any reason not to use a negative after unless. I can give examples unless you'd rather not hear them. :) "We could go out for pizza, unless you don't want pizza?" "You might try using cilantro, unless you don't have any. Then you might try parsley." As a matter of fact, I don't see anything wrong with the example in the OP.


Posted 2014-04-06T10:13:15.453

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unless you don't love people. was supposed to mean "unless you hate people. " – user1425 – 2014-04-06T10:37:44.277

1@user1425 Ah, that makes more sense. You know you can edit it, right? You can also say "You don't love people. You will succeed unless you don't like people." – Jolenealaska – 2014-04-06T10:38:37.457

But I did it on purpose to illustrate a case in point . – user1425 – 2014-04-06T10:43:06.987

1To repeat yourself using unless is more problematic than using the negative. Was that a part of your question? – Jolenealaska – 2014-04-06T10:49:31.187

I think the repetition is a by-product here. The main point was a possibility of using a negation after UNLESS. – user1425 – 2014-04-06T10:54:20.990

@user1425 So, what problem do you see with, "You don't love people. You will succeed unless you don't like people"? – Jolenealaska – 2014-04-06T10:56:28.460

It's not that I saw a problem I just needed to make sure that there was no problem. – user1425 – 2014-04-06T10:58:59.787

It's just that the line you use says, "You don't X. You will succeed unless you don't X" Do you mean to say that you won't succeed unless you do X? Or that you will succeed if you do X? – Jolenealaska – 2014-04-06T11:01:10.460

I wanted to say "unless you do not do X?" – user1425 – 2014-04-06T11:28:06.913

1Not to beat a dead horse, but why not leave "love" in the first part, and change it to "like" in the second part? Then there is no weirdness about repeating after the unless? – Jolenealaska – 2014-04-06T11:30:42.213

I am not against that. It's just that I was more concerned with a grammatical aspect rather than a lexical one. – user1425 – 2014-04-06T11:40:39.097

3Then I recommend that you make the change because grammatically there is no difference, but leaving it as it is begs a question that you you don't mean to ask. – Jolenealaska – 2014-04-06T11:47:10.010


I'm afraid it won't be a preferred version. It's not that natural as compared to...

You'll not succeed unless you love people

Note: I've not factually examined this sentence!

Most grammar books says avoiding two negatives to make things positive.

Prefer It's common over It's not uncommon.

Maulik V

Posted 2014-04-06T10:13:15.453

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As the negation of "you will succeed", "you won't" sounds more natural to me than "you'll not". But that could be just me. – Mr Lister – 2014-04-06T13:27:19.973

Just because it's not uncommon doesn't mean it's common. – starsplusplus – 2014-04-06T21:54:19.847


The phrase "not uncommon" isn't double negation.

– Helix Quar – 2014-04-07T01:45:01.820

@helix really? then what's it? – Maulik V – 2014-04-07T04:33:39.263

@starsplusplus If something is not uncommon, it's not common as well. How? Please enlighten me. – Maulik V – 2014-04-07T04:34:28.897

@MaulikV See the link in my previous comment. It's a figure of speech known as litotes.

– Helix Quar – 2014-04-07T04:38:33.060


Related question to @starsplusplus's comment: ELU: Does “not uncommon” mean “common”?

– Helix Quar – 2014-04-07T04:43:51.523

@helix you are taking rarest rare things and considering exceptions. Take 10 sentences with not uncommon from anywhere and 8 out of 10 would mean not uncommon as common. And, this example is taken from Swan's book whereas the answerer in your link I think had to thought about that example to prove the point. – Maulik V – 2014-04-07T04:48:19.713

@Maulik The point is that "not uncommon" also includes the middle ground that is neither common nor uncommon. "Common" is a subset of "not uncommon" that does not include this middle ground. – starsplusplus – 2014-04-07T06:02:23.643


I think

Unless you play badly, you will win the game

Is the same as

If you play well, you will win the game.


Posted 2014-04-06T10:13:15.453

Reputation: 11

@sardar Welcome to the community, and thanks for the tip! However, I think you probably misread the question a little. It's true that the title asks about "a negative idea", but in the body of the question, the original poster expands on that a little that it actually is about "a negation after 'unless'". – Damkerng T. – 2015-09-29T19:37:07.353

Hi sadar, welcome to this community! – ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq – 2015-02-11T05:53:59.913


Unless - except under the circumstances that

Ex: Exceptional talent does not always win its reward unless favored by exceptional circumstances.

From The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

Unless implies a negative impression. It means "if not the case that..."

If the clause after "unless" is negative, the negative of the clause and the implied negative of "unless" makes the total positive. It's the case of two negatives makes positive in a sentence. And in standard English we generally avoid these kind of construction. Though they are not uncommon, especially in some circumstances it does make more sense.


Posted 2014-04-06T10:13:15.453

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