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.

4 Answers 4


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.

  • unless you don't love people. was supposed to mean "unless you hate people. "
    – user1425
    Apr 6, 2014 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." Apr 6, 2014 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? Apr 6, 2014 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? Apr 6, 2014 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. Apr 6, 2014 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.


I think

Unless you play badly, you will win the game

Is the same as

If you play well, you will win the game.

  • Hi sadar, welcome to this community! Feb 11, 2015 at 5:53
  • @sardar Welcome to the community, and thanks for the tip! However, I think you probably misread the question a little. It's true that the title asks about "a negative idea", but in the body of the question, the original poster expands on that a little that it actually is about "a negation after 'unless'". Sep 29, 2015 at 19:37

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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