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Came across a passage that used nowadays to counter the previous statement, and was wondering whether it would count as a word that does non-verbal negation

In the past this happened frequently; nowadays, it doesn't happen as much.

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    No. [Then X] but now [not X]. The negator is not (incorporated into 'doesn't' here). There is an implicit contrastive element in 'nowadays' (ie 'as opposed to what used to be the case'), so the semicolon and a second independent clause starting with 'nowadays' may be used instead of a comma followed by 'but nowadays'. Commented May 13 at 11:03
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    It's just an adverb phrase of temporal location used deictically.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 13 at 11:45

4 Answers 4

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To test whether "nowadays" is a negator, we can see whether the combo of "nowadays" and a negative polarity item (NPI) is grammatical. One example of an NPI is "at all". We can tell it's an NPI because it's OK in questions and negative statements:

  • Does this happen at all?
  • This doesn't happen at all.

but it is not OK in positive statements:

  • *This happens at all.

Now try with "nowadays".

  • *Nowadays, this happens at all.

That was ungrammatical, too. So "nowadays" is not a negator.

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  • Not sure the explanation follows through. "Nowadays, this happens at all" makes nowadays look bad, but is it the cause of the problem? "Nowadays, this happens all the time" is fine. Commented May 13 at 18:21
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    @YosefBaskin "All the time" is not a NPI, so the fact that the combo of it and "nowadays" is grammatical is irrelevant to the matter of whether or not the combo of "nowadays" and an NPI is grammatical.
    – Rosie F
    Commented May 13 at 19:11
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    @YosefBaskin: The point is that "at all" is bad by default (we can't just say *"This happens at all" on its own), and only certain constructions license it. "Nowadays" isn't the cause of the problem, but the fact that it doesn't fix the problem means that it's not a negator.
    – ruakh
    Commented May 13 at 22:45
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I would say nowadays introduces contrast, not negation. Cambridge explains:

We can use nowadays, these days or today as adverbs meaning ‘at the present time, in comparison with the past’:

I don’t watch TV very much nowadays. There’s so much rubbish on. It’s not like it used to be.

Collins actually uses the word contrast:

Nowadays means at the present time, in contrast with the past.

You can use nowadays with negation:

In the past I've maybe found it harder as a man to talk to people about mental health, but not nowadays. (The Guardian - Opinion)

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  • Yes, I find @Rosie's explanation better.
    – fev
    Commented May 13 at 13:28
  • @YosefBaskin I still think my answer is incomplete, but I am glad the other answer I complimented does a good job clearing any doubts I did not address :)
    – fev
    Commented May 13 at 18:27
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No.

Nowadays is a partitive sentence adverb.

It is used to give a time-frame to an action or state.

It is used to describe both negative and positive actions and states.

The inclusion of "nowadays" does not affect the polarity of the action or state - compare this to a double negative.

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Compare your sentence with e.g.:

"At night, the stars are visible; in the daytime, they aren't as easy to see."

or:

"In the sea there are many fish; on land, there aren't so many."

or:

"In the jungle it often rains; in the desert, it doesn't rain as much."

Are "in the daytime", "on land" and "in the desert" also negators? Of course not. They are merely the opposites of — or at least distinct from and contrasted with — the corresponding adverbial phrases in the first part of each sentence ("at night", "in the sea" and "in the jungle").

Similarly, in your sentence, "nowadays" is merely the opposite of "in the past" and contrasted with it.

Thus it's not surprising that the two parts of your sentence make semantically opposite claims, since that's often the point of contrasting two different things. But there's no form of grammatical negation implied by the adverb "nowadays".


In particular, the following variation of your sentence would also be just as grammatical:

"In the past this happened frequently; nowadays, it still does."

This type of contrastive sentence — with both sides actually making the same claim about the each of two different things being contrasted — is perhaps not quite as common as the type in your question, since it basically relies on subverting the reader's expectation that the two things being contrasted should be different (for example, in this case, that the present day should somehow be different from the past). Without such an expectation, this kind of a "non-contrast" sentence risks coming across as trivial and pointless. But where such an expectation exists, or where one can be temporarily created by word choice only to be subsequently subverted, it can be quite an effective rhetorical device.

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