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Is it acceptable to use a negation after "unless"? I know it's far from standard.

You don't love people. But you will succeed unless you don't like people.

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3 Answers 3

There isn't any reason not to use a negative after unless. I can give examples unless you'd rather not hear them. :) "We could go out for pizza, unless you don't want pizza?" "You might try using cilantro, unless you don't have any. Then you might try parsley." As a matter of fact, I don't see anything wrong with the example in the OP.

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unless you don't love people. was supposed to mean "unless you hate people. " –  user1425 Apr 6 at 10:37
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@user1425 Ah, that makes more sense. You know you can edit it, right? You can also say "You don't love people. You will succeed unless you don't like people." –  Jolenealaska Apr 6 at 10:38
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To repeat yourself using unless is more problematic than using the negative. Was that a part of your question? –  Jolenealaska Apr 6 at 10:49
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Not to beat a dead horse, but why not leave "love" in the first part, and change it to "like" in the second part? Then there is no weirdness about repeating after the unless? –  Jolenealaska Apr 6 at 11:30
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Then I recommend that you make the change because grammatically there is no difference, but leaving it as it is begs a question that you you don't mean to ask. –  Jolenealaska Apr 6 at 11:47

I'm afraid it won't be a preferred version. It's not that natural as compared to...

You'll not succeed unless you love people

Note: I've not factually examined this sentence!

Most grammar books says avoiding two negatives to make things positive.

Prefer It's common over It's not uncommon.

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As the negation of "you will succeed", "you won't" sounds more natural to me than "you'll not". But that could be just me. –  Mr Lister Apr 6 at 13:27
    
Just because it's not uncommon doesn't mean it's common. –  starsplusplus Apr 6 at 21:54
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The phrase "not uncommon" isn't double negation. –  helix Apr 7 at 1:45
    
@helix really? then what's it? –  Maulik V Apr 7 at 4:33
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Related question to @starsplusplus's comment: ELU: Does “not uncommon” mean “common”? –  helix Apr 7 at 4:43

Unless - except under the circumstances that

Ex: Exceptional talent does not always win its reward unless favored by exceptional circumstances.

From The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

Unless implies a negative impression. It means "if not the case that..."

If the clause after "unless" is negative, the negative of the clause and the implied negative of "unless" makes the total positive. It's the case of two negatives makes positive in a sentence. And in standard English we generally avoid these kind of construction. Though they are not uncommon, especially in some circumstances it does make more sense.

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