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.
- ніде nowhere
Я ніде не можу знайти ключі!
I can’t find my keys anywhere!
- ніколи never
Ніколи не здавайся.
Never give up.
- 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 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.
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:
ні (на) кому
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 >
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.
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 the 1000 most common words in Ukrainian with interactive flashcards.
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