0

You are telling to a kid that he can't not eat something. Is the structure making sense?

A: you can't not eat things.

  • It is correct, but be careful! "can't not" means "must" or "have to". It does not mean "can". – kasfme Sep 14 '16 at 2:35
  • 1
    You can not not eat things. The two not's cancel. You can eat things. The sentence means the kid has to eat something even if he or she doesn't like it. The kid can say "I'm not eating this!" And the mother replies, "You can't not eat things. You must eat something or die." Is it grammatically correct? Yes. – Arch Denton Sep 14 '16 at 2:54
  • It's grammatically correct, but it's a little unclear if it means what you want it to mean. As other have pointed out, this sentence means "You must eat things." If you mean that the kid must eat, instead of refusing to eat, more idiomatic ways to phrase it might be You can't eat nothing or You have to eat something. – stangdon Sep 14 '16 at 11:35
  • Also "You are telling to a kid…" and "Is the structure making sense?" raise other questions… Either "… telling a kid…" or "…*saying to* a kid…" Never "…telling to…" "Does the structure make sense?" yes and "Is the structure making sense?" works in the different context of a developing conversation. At first, someone did not understand; in future, he might understand; only now, as the conversation progresses, can we ask "Is the structure making sense?" This is equivalent to "Is the structure starting to make sense?" where the sense is not absolute; it is beginning to emerge. – Robbie Goodwin Sep 29 '16 at 22:29
2

"You can't not eat things" is acceptable. However, it is a bit tricky!

What does it mean?

You might think that the nots of "You can not not eat things" cancel. This is false. "You can't not eat things" does not mean "You can eat things".

"You can't not eat things" means "You must eat things".

english.stackexchange talks about this here, here and here.

When do you use it?

I would not write "can't not". Instead, I would write "must" or a similar word to "must".

I say "can't not" when speaking.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.