Double negation in Ukrainian is absolutely OK! It is not frowned upon like in English and some other languages. Two negations in the same clause do not cancel each other in Ukrainian – quite the opposite. 

You know it is okay to be negative sometimes. But how do you do that in Ukrainian? Today you will learn three rules for negation in Ukrainian.

Rule #1: Use double negatives in Ukrainian

That’s right, do not hesitate to do it! In standard Ukrainian, we use a negative verb when we use negative words. For example:

  • ніхто nobody
    Була десята ранку, але ще ніхто не прийшов.
    It was 10 am but no one had arrived yet.
negation in Ukrainian

Ніхто не прийшов.

  • ніде nowhere
    Я ніде не можу знайти ключі!
    I can’t find my keys anywhere!
  • ніколи never
    Ніколи не здавайся.
    Never give up. 

negation in Ukrainian

  • нічого nothing
    Він не розповів нам нічого цікавого.
    He didn’t tell us anything interesting.

Remember to always write не separately from the verb!

Such negatives are used in both formal and informal situations. As a matter of fact, it is grammatically incorrect to use anything but the double negative! It is the rule of the negation in the Ukrainian language. 

It is incorrect to say:

  • Ніхто знає відповідь.
    Nobody knows the answer.

The correct option has double negation:

  • Ніхто не знає відповіді.
    Nobody knows the answer.
negation in Ukrainian

Ніхто не знає...

Rule #2: Remember the negative pronouns in Ukrainian

Such pronouns describe the absence of a person, an object or a number: ніхто no one, ніщо nothing, нічий nobody’s, ніскільки none

Note how we use the ніхто and ніщо in different cases:

 

Nominative

Genitive

Dative

Accusative

Instrumental

Locative

No one

ніхто 

нікого 

нікому 

нікого 

ніким 

ні (на) кому

Nothing

ніщо 

нічого 

нічому 

нічого 

нічим

ні (на) чому 

As you can see, these are written as one word but they can be separated by a preposition: 

  • Ні в кого немає олівця?
    Does anybody have a pencil?
  • Я ні на що не натякаю.
    I’m not implying anything.

Here you can find a brief description of the seven Ukrainian cases >

Introduction to Cases in Ukrainian Language

Rule #3: Practice, practice, practice

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here. The double negation in Ukrainian may confuse you, that is why it is important to keep working on it. 

There is also the next level: sometimes you will need to use triple negatives, such as:

  • Нікому нічого не кажи.
    Don’t say anything to anyone.
negation in Ukrainian

Я нікому нічого не винен. I don’t owe anyone anything.

***

Need more practice? Check out the Ukrainian Lessons Podcast episode about the double negation in Ukrainian.

And if you feel like you are an advanced user of it, tell us how you cope with those double negatives. Looking forward to your feedback!


Learning Ukrainian and looking for great resources?

Check out our list of 1000 most common words in Ukrainian with interactive flashcards.

You can also learn Ukrainian step by step wherever you are with our free Ukrainian Lessons Podcast.

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