Negative Sentences in Italian: Italian Grammar Lesson

Lesson 11

Key Takeaways

Learn how to form negative sentences in Italian using non and other negative expressions to effectively communicate negation.

  • Use non before the verb for general negation.
  • Specific negative words like niente, nulla, and nessuno can precede or follow the verb.
  • When negative words follow the verb, a double negation is required.
  • Double negatives are grammatically correct in Italian and do not cancel each other out.
  • Learn how to negate verbs and use the word “no” in Italian.

Quick facts

How do you negate a verb in Italian?

Use "non" before the verb; the verb remains conjugated.

What happens to compound tenses in Italian negation?

"Non" precedes the auxiliary verb in compound tenses.

How do you negate the existence of something in Italian?

Use "niente" or "nulla" to negate existence.

How do you indicate the absence of people in Italian?

Use "nessuno" to refer to no one or nobody.

What word negates the frequency of an action over time?

"Mai" is used to mean "never."

How do you negate multiple elements in a list in Italian?

Use "né... né..." to mean "neither... nor..."

What must be used when negative expressions follow the verb?

Use double negation: "non" + verb + negative word.

Can "niente," "nulla," and "nessuno" start a sentence?

Yes, they can start a sentence without double negation.

How do double negatives function in Italian grammar?

Double negatives are grammatically correct and do not cancel out.

Is the word "no" universally understandable in Italian?

Yes, "no" is universally understood, but verb negation is essential.

Audio images

🔊
Non ho mai visto quel film.
🔊
Non mi piace nulla.
🔊
Lui non mangia carne.

Vocab

non
mai
nessuno
niente
nulla
poco
affatto
nessuno
senza
meno
mai
neppure
neanche
nessun
nessuna
nessun'
nulla
alcuno
scuro

Sentences

Non ho soldi.

I don't have money.

Non mi piace il pesce.

I don't like fish.

Non posso venire.

I can't come.

Non ho capito.

I didn't understand.

Non voglio andare.

I don't want to go.

My Thoughts

Negatives in Italian

Negation in Italian is a very simple structure: you just need the negative word “non” right before the verb. The rest of the sentence remains the same, therefore the verb is conjugated and, unlike English, it is not affected by the negation.

Make sure you focus on the negative word non and how we use it:

Lei viene -> Lei non viene.

She is coming -> She isn’t coming.

Noi siamo andati in Italia -> Noi non siamo stati in Italia

We have gone to Italy -> We haven’t gone to Italy

Parlo Francese -> Non parlo francese.

I speak French -> I don’t speak French.

As you can see, “non” precedes the main verb and, in compound tenses, it precedes the auxiliary verb.

🔊
Non ho mai visto quel film.

Negative Expressions

Beside “non” for general negation, there are specific words used to negate certain elements or to express negation in different contexts:

  • Niente/Nulla (nothing): used to negate the existence of something.
  • Nessuno (no one, nobody): used to refer to the absence of people.
  • Mai (never): used to negate the frequency of an action over time.
  • Né… né… (neither… nor…): Used to negate multiple elements in a list.

What might be tricky about these negative expressions in Italian is the behavior of the verb when they are used. Let me explain it further.

Although not very common, niente, nulla, and nessuno can be placed at the beginning of a sentence, preceding the verb. When this happens, the structure of the sentence is standard.

Niente mi convince.

Nothing convinces me

Stasera nessuno è venuto.

Tonight nobody came.

Instead, when they are placed after the verb, the structure changes and a double negation must be used. Unlike in English, double negatives are grammatically correct in Italian and do not cancel the negation out.

The structure is the following:+ non + verb + nessuno/niente/nulla/mai...

Here are some examples:

Stasera non viene nessuno.

No one is coming tonight.

Non vedo niente.

I can’t see anything.

Lei non vuole nulla.

She doesn’t want anything.

🔊
Non mi piace nulla.

No: Universally Understandable

If you are an English speaker, you might think this section is pointless. But actually, not all languages use the word “no”.

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

Lo sapevi?” (Did you know it?)

Probabilmente no” (Probably not)

Of course, if you want to say “no” to someone, you can play with words and say “no” in different ways. For now, learn how to negate verbs.

Now that you acquired this new language skill, you can stop pleasing Italian people!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

FAQs

How do you make a sentence negative in Italian?

Making a negative sentence in Italian is very simple; we just need to add the negative word "non."

Does Italian use double negatives?

The double negative is a valid sentence structure in Italian. For example: Non viene nessuno. (No one is coming.)

How do you negate a verb in Italian?

In Italian, to negate a sentence, you can simply place "non" before the main verb. For example: Non posso mangiarlo (I can't eat this).

Italian word of the day
aziende
Example
Dalla crisi, molte aziende hanno chiuso.
Because of the financial crisis, many companies shut down.
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One Response

  1. No questions Stefano, I’ll keep trying. I was in Sardinia in September and my Italian was much better this year because of your program but I still have a long way to go.

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