• a) I cannot say anything else.

  • b) I cannot say nothing else.

Are a) and b) both correct in this example?

Yes, I cannot say anything/nothing else, because I did not notice anything/nothing else.

If not, can anyone explain why?


Your b) versions are ungrammatical in standard use because they employ double negatives.

I cannot say nothing else would only be used with emphasis on the 'nothing' to assert that you do in fact have something else to say.

I cannot say anything else would require a just before anything and would emphasize anything to assert that the something else you have to say isn't just anything you say to be part of the conversation but is highly specific or relevant to the topic at hand.

If you want to use 'nothing' in these contexts you must delete the 'not':

I can say nothing else because I noticed nothing else.

Even in non-standard use, where double negatives are sometimes employed for additional emphasis, you are unlikely to encounter them in the forms you offer; the negated verbs would be contracted:

I can't say nothin else cause I di'n't see nothin else.

In my part of the country you wouldn't say even that; you'd say:

I can't say nothin else cause I ain't seen nothin else.

  • Nice answer; I always wondered why natives use double-negation even in the cases where they don't mean to say positive! I get it now; there aim is to emphasize the negation, however the result becomes inconsistent. So here in another question comes to my mind, if somebody wants to emphasize the negation, how would he do that? – Mistu4u Sep 22 '13 at 14:29
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    @Mistu4u By emphasizing it. Or "emphasizing" it. Or by emphasizing, I repeat, emphasizing it. Or by --let me make myself perfectly clear-- emphasizing it. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 22 '13 at 14:34
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    ...or go for the "reflexive performative utterance" format, and emphasize the fact that you can't say nothing/anything by not in fact saying anything at all. – FumbleFingers Sep 22 '13 at 22:37
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    @FumbleFingers The minimalization principle! – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 22 '13 at 23:11

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