Sorry for a very general question, but it's important for me to know the alpha and omega of it! The question came to my mind looking at this.

I searched on Oxforddictionaries and landed here.

Negative Sentences

Now the question:

All the examples for negative or in questions and without negative reflect negativeness one or the other way.

Does negation only imply to the subject and never the results? I was ready for my resignation (is positive?) OVER I wasn't ready for my promotion and thus declined it! (is negative?)

My homework: I went through this but still it's not utterly clear. What if there's no subject! Can we come up with negative/positive sentences then?

For instance, *this produces no results - negative?

  • 3
    It's all about negative polarity. (Not to be confused with words that have negative connotation.) Recommended reading: www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/NPIs.pdf Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 7:54
  • coming from the Hagu master...I'll surely read. Enhancing knowledge in process... Thankss!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 7:55

2 Answers 2


A sentence becomes negative by specific words. Most of those have 'no' in it. For example

No one

And yes a sentence without a subject can be negative. Here's an example:

Stop the car!  -- positive
Do not stop the car! -- negative

Do your homework!
Don't do drugs! 

When it comes to the licensing of words like anything, I don't think it's helpful to think of negation as being a property of a sentence, per se. The no in "This produces no results" is certainly negative (we can say "This produces no results of any consequence", with any), but that doesn't extend backward to the subject (we can't say *"Anything produces no results") or verb (we can't say *"This ever produces no results").

A good rule of thumb is that the negative word must come before any words that it licenses. So, for example, we can say "No one ever saw it" (no one before ever) or "Never did anyone see it" (never before anyone; though note that this is a bit formal or literary), but we can't say *"Anyone never saw it" (anyone before never), nor *"Ever did no one see it" (ever before no one).

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