Using 'No' and Related Words in Spanish

"No" graphic in bold letters / Creative Commons.

Changing a Spanish sentence to a negative can be as easy as placing no before the main verb. Spanish is different than English in that Spanish can require the use of the double negative under some circumstances.

"No" as an Adjective or Adverb

In Spanish, the most common negative word is no, which can be used as an adverb or adjective. As an adverb negating a sentence, it always comes immediately before the verb, unless the verb is preceded by an object, in which case it comes immediately before the object.

  • No como. (I am not eating.) No quiere ir al centro. (She doesn't want to go downtown.) No lo quiero. (I don't want it.) ¿No te gusta la bicicleta? (Don't you like the bicycle?)

When no is used as an adjective, or as an adverb modifying an adjective or another adverb, it typically is the equivalent of the English "not" or of a prefix such as "non." In those cases, it comes immediately before the word it modifies. Note that while no is sometimes used to mean "not" in this way, this use isn't terribly common, and usually other words or sentence constructions are used.

  • El senador está por la política de la no violencia. (The senator is for the policy of nonviolence.) Tiene dos computadoras no usadas. (He has two unused computers.) Mi hermano es poco inteligente. (My brother is unintelligent.) Ese doctor es sin principios. (That doctor is unprincipled.)

Other Negating Words

Spanish also has several negative words that are frequently used. They include nada (nothing), nadie (nobody, no one), ninguno (none), nunca (never), and jamás (never). Ninguno, depending on its usage, also comes in the forms ningún, ninguna, ningunos and ningunas, although the plural forms are seldom used.

  • Nada vale tanto como el amor. (Nothing is worth as much as love.) Nadie quiere salir. (Nobody wants to leave.) Ninguna casa tiene más televisores que la mía. (No house has more televisions than mine.) Nunca bebemos la cerveza. (We never drink beer). Jamás te veo. (I never see you.)

One aspect of Spanish that may seem unusual to English speakers is the use of the double negative. If one of the negative words listed above (such as nada or nadie) is used after the verb, a negative (often no) also must be used before the verb. Such usage is not considered redundant. When translating to English, you shouldn't translate both negatives as negatives.

  • Nonada. (I don't know anything, or I know nothing.) No conozco a nadie. (I don't know anybody, or I know nobody.) A nadie le importa nada. (Nothing matters to anybody.)
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'No' and Related Words in Spanish." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Using 'No' and Related Words in Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using 'No' and Related Words in Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).