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If I want to say someone that I don't premise him about that, it says, I want to give him nothing about permission. what's out of the following four is the correct?

For example:

a) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise nothing. (or maybe I don't want to promise is more idiomatic)

b) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise anything.

Now, if I say "nothing" I'm confused whether it's considered a multiple negation or not, because if it is, then I basically say the opposite of what I want. And if I say "anything" it sounds to me like I say something like "I don't promise you anything in the world but I do promise something anyway.".

By the way I'm also confused about the words, something and everything in this context.

c) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise something.

d) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise everything.

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    In English speaking countries, the most common way to say this would be, "I will try to finish the procedure today, but I can't promise anything." It is understood by the person speaking, and the person being spoken to, that 'I can't promise anything' simply means, "I can't promise that I will be able to finish the procedure today." Both persons understand that 'I can't promise you anything' only applies to the attempt to finish the procedure today, and is not an overall refusal to make any promises about any other matter.
    – James
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 14:05
  • Why would someone like you with a pretty high level in English even post a double negative as you have done? It's puzzling.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 20:44

1 Answer 1

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I don't fully understand your introductory sentence about "permission" but I'm assuming you are trying to say something like: You believe you will finish the procedure today, but it's possible that you could be wrong and won't actually finish it today so you aren't promising to finish today.

In which case

I think I'll finish the procedure today but I can't promise anything.

Is the most standard and accepted way to say that. (don't instead of can't still makes sense, but can't sounds more natural)

a) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise nothing.

Means the same thing (someone saying the double negatives cancel in this context would be being pedantic) and some people/dialects might actually say it that way. But it is much less common and some people will think the double negative sounds wrong or uneducated.

c) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise something.

This wouldn't be said at all because it doesn't really make sense. If you did try to say it, the listener would probably be confused and ask what you meant by "something".

d) I think I'll finish the procedure today but I don't promise everything.

You probably want to avoid this as well because it doesn't sound right. If you did try to say it, it'd probably be interpreted as "but I don't promise [that I will finish] everything" but they also might just be confused like the "something" example. Either way it definitely isn't idiomatic though.

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  • "I don't promise nothing" actually is wrong (it's not just "sounds wrong"). It is actually ungrammatical, because it is a double-negative (which are pretty much never correct in English). "anything" is really the only correct option here.
    – Foogod
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 21:29
  • @Foogod Double negatives can be perfectly acceptably in standard English.They are common is some dialects. Examples: "He is not unattractive.","He is not without charm". "He doesn't have nothing but the clothes on his back.", "This gem is not uncommon.", "The price of the car is not insignificant.", The new disease wasn't non-infectious.", "He wasn't irresponsible about his duties.", "I can't get no satisfaction ", "I don't disagree", "Mr. Jones wasn't incompetent." "We can't not go to sleep!" ."Nor did they fail to take account of it", "We don't need no badges!." [...] Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 6:44
  • @Foogod Double negatives were used by Shakespeare, John Bunyan, Chaucer, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton,John Huston, and many other respected writers. See Wikipedia and Double Negatives in English: Are They Really Wrong? among other sources. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 6:48
  • @DavidSiegel almost none of your examples are actually double-negatives. First, "un"-prefixed adjectives, etc, or verbs like "disagree", are not negatives in a grammatical sense. Secondly, a double-negative occurs when somebody uses two negative terms but actually means a negative (instead of a positive) result, such as "don't promise nothing", which is logically inconsistent with what was said, and therefore wrong. "I can't get no satisfaction", etc. are double-negatives, but they are also basically slang, which is often not grammatically correct by definition.
    – Foogod
    Commented May 1, 2022 at 0:42
  • Oh, and "We don't need no badges" was a line from a movie which deliberately used a double-negative to indicate that the speaker was not a native English speaker, which pretty much proves my point, I think. Also, people seem to have the silly notion that just because people use a construction in English that that automatically makes it correct, but that is not how grammar actually works. Yes, people do bend the rules all the time for various reasons but that does not mean that one should pretend they don't exist at all, especially when talking to those new to the language.
    – Foogod
    Commented May 1, 2022 at 0:48

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