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In Portuguese it's very common to have negative concord, like in the common saying I'm trying to translate:

Ninguém é melhor que ninguém

Which literally translates to

Nobody is better than nobody

But I've seen that double negatives are not formal English and even If I were to use in a colloquial context I'm not sure it would transmit the message clearly, which is "No one is better than anyone else."

I was recommended to phrase it like this

Nobody is better than anybody

But changing "anybody" for "nobody" seems susceptible for negative concord, so I wonder if the double negative would be fine in this case.

Which form is better? Or, is there an even better one? Would the first translation be easily understood?

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    "No one is better than anyone else" is by far the clearest. – Mick Oct 13 '16 at 12:42
  • @Mick yes, it is. But common sayings have a particular need for style to become catchy, which is often achieved with repetition (e.g. "Never say never"). That's why I'm putting some effort to preserve the structure. – villasv Oct 13 '16 at 12:45
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    Mick is right. You can leave off the "else" but then you wind up with a potential confusion. Your statement could merely sound like it's saying, more or less, that "everybody sucks, they're all worthless." Adding the "else" is what I would use to express the egalitarianism you may be looking for. – Robusto Oct 13 '16 at 13:29
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    Second, Nobody is better than nobody is okay in very informal contexts (compare: I ain't got nobody) but not in everyday English (I don't have anybody). – Alan Carmack Oct 13 '16 at 16:19
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    In "non-standard" English you could have ain't nobody better 'n nobody – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 13 '16 at 16:53
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There are a couple of ways you can have your negative concord.

  • There's nobody better than anybody.
  • No one is better than anyone.

I don't think a double negative is a good idea to use here. It won't be idiomatic as in "Never say never" and won't add contrast to the sentence.

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