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Is this correct? It looks like double negation.

I think that “little party killed nobody” or “little party never killed anybody” might be just a little bit better.

This is a line from a song.

marked as duplicate by jimsug, Esoteric Screen Name, Em1, Chenmunka, snailcar Jul 1 '14 at 9:11

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    Did you find this sentence somewhere, or write it yourself? If you found it somewhere, please tell us where it came from. (Read this post for an explanation on why I'm making this request.) The phrase you mention here wouldn't win points from a grammar teacher, but there are some subcultures where less refined grammar is the norm, and this would sound perfectly natural. – J.R. Jun 30 '14 at 8:25
  • This is a line from a song. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Ivan Jun 30 '14 at 13:30
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    I should first mention that the A preceding the phrase is rather vital to the grammaticality of the sentence. That being said, you're perfectly right - it's a double negative, which taken literally means that a little party has never not caused the death of (killed) a person. Given that even native speakers will make the mistake of using a double negative however, it's become the case that in "slang" phrases like this, it's understood as "never killed anybody". – Pockets Jun 30 '14 at 14:05
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It is not a correct sentence, but is commonly used as slang. It unambiguously means "... never killed anybody."

Also note, some AmE native speakers won't have a clue that it is wrong and may be offended if you suggest it is.

I would never use double negatives myself except in rare cases where it is a specific stylistic choice. I suggest using the same caution. Those who know better may either think less of you (if they think you are native) or, at the least, think you don't know English as well as you do.

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    "Don't ever use double negatives yourself" Really? Never? Even if he's surrounded by friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who he has heard use double negatives on numerous, separate occasions? He shouldn't accomodate their stylistic choices to build rapport? I'd be very careful making prescriptions about the use of language, particularly when saying that you should never say something. – jimsug Jun 30 '14 at 17:37
  • I know, "never" is one of those words that should almost never be used. It is perhaps a bit too strong. Edited to reflect that. – Chris Jun 30 '14 at 18:57
  • Double negatives like this are almost always used only in very informal speech. If I were to use this, I would probably code-switch to a regional or lower-class accent, also; it sounds awkward otherwise. This could be really powerful for a high-level ELL, for building rapport or sounding native as jimsug says, but most likely you'd wind up doing it wrong, so I would use caution unless you are very comfortable with the audience and the structure. – Tiercelet Jun 30 '14 at 19:48
  • I would say "non-standard" rather than "incorrect" or "slang". The person who wrote the lyrics almost certainly did not make a mistake in doing so, and it makes very little sense to correct them. (It does make sense to describe when this sort of usage is appropriate or inappropriate, of course!) – snailcar Jun 30 '14 at 22:53

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