Easy Learning Italian

Negatives - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

What is a negative?
A negative question or statement is one which contains a word such as not, never or nothing: He’s not here; I never eat meat; She’s doing nothing about it.

1  non

  • The Italian word non (meaning not) is the one you need to make a statement or a question negative:
Non posso venire.I can’t come.
Non hai la chiave?Haven’t you got the key?
Giuliana non abita qui.Giuliana doesn’t live here.
  • In English not or n’t comes after verbs. In Italian non comes in front of verbs.
Non è qui.It’s not here.
Non è venuta.She didn’t come.
I miei non hanno la macchina.My parents haven’t got a car.
Lei non è molto alta.She’s not very tall.
  • In English we sometimes make sentences negative by adding don’t, doesn’t or didn’t before the main verb, but in Italian you always just add non to the verb.
Lavorano.They work.Non lavorano.They don’t work.
Lo vuole.He wants it.Non lo vuole.He doesn’t want it.
TipNEVER use the verb fare to translate don’t, doesn’t or didn’t in negatives.
  • If there are words such as mi, ti, lo, la, ci, vi, li or le in front of the verb, non goes immediately in front of them.
Non l’ho visto.I didn’t see it.
Non mi piace il calcio.I don’t like football.
  • If you have a phrase consisting of not with another word or phrase, such as not now, or not yet, use non before the other word.
non adessonot now
non ancoranot yet
non semprenot always
non dopo sabatonot after Saturday
  • BUT, if you want to be more emphatic, or to make a contrast, use no instead of non, and put it after the other word.
Sempre no, qualche volta.Not ALWAYS, but sometimes.
  • You use no instead of non in certain phrases:
  • In the phrase o no (meaning or not)
Vieni o no?Are you coming or not?
che gli piaccia o nowhether he likes it or not
  • In the phrase di no after some verbs:
Credo di no.I don’t think so.
Spero di no.I hope not.
Ha detto di no.He said not.

2  Other negative phrases

  • In English you only use one negative word in a sentence: I haven’t ever seen him. In Italian you use non followed by another negative word such as niente (meaning nothing), or mai, (meaning never).
Non succede mai.It never happens.
Non ha detto niente.She didn’t say anything.
  • The following are the most common phrases of this kind.
  • non … mainever or not ever
Non la vedo mai.I never see her.
TipYou put mai between the two parts of the perfect tense.
Non l’ho mai vista.I’ve never seen her.
Non ci siamo mai stati.We’ve never been there.
  • non … nientenothing or not …anything
Non hanno fatto niente.They didn’t do anything.
  • non … nessunonobody or not … anybody
    Non ho visto nessuno.I didn’t see anybody.
  • non … da nessuna partenowhere or not … anywhere
Non riuscivo a trovarlo da nessuna parte.I couldn’t find it anywhere.
  • non … nessuno/nessuna + noun no or not … any
    Non c’è nessun bisogno di andare.There’s no need to go. or
    There isn’t any need to go.
  • non … piùno longer or not … any more
Non escono più insieme.They’re not going out together any more.
  • non …né … né …neither … nor
Non verranno Chiara Donatella.Neither Chiara nor Donatella are coming.
  • If you begin a sentence with a negative word such as nessuno or niente, do not use non with the verb that comes after it.
Nessuno è venuto.Nobody came.
Niente è cambiato.Nothing has changed.
Non è venuto nessuno. 
Non è cambiato niente. 
  • In Italian you can have more than one negative word following a negative verb.
Non fanno mai niente.They never do anything.
Non si confida mai con nessuno.He never confides in anyone.
  • As in English, negative words can be used on their own to answer a question.
Cos’hai comprato? – Niente.What did you buy? – Nothing.
Chi ti accompagna? – Nessuno.Who’s going with you? – Nobody.
Key points
  • To make a verb negative put non in front of it.
  • Unlike English, in Italian it is good grammar to follow non with another negative word.

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