87 votes
Accepted

Meaning of "respecting" in "no law respecting an establishment of religion"

The confusing term seems to be "respecting". This is a somewhat different meaning of "respect", that is still in common use: respecting (prep): in view of : considering with respect to :...
Andrew's user avatar
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53 votes
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Triple negation: What does "This ain't no place for no hero" mean?

Most of the time, especially in "vernacular" speech, multiple negations are not intended to be interpreted sequentially, but rather as an intensified single negative. The phrase "This ain't no place ...
Hellion's user avatar
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38 votes
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What does "I never stopped to think of it" mean?

There is a difference between I [never] stopped to think and I [never] stopped thinking In the second, thinking is the object, it's the thing that does (or doesn't) get stopped. The negation in ...
Gary Botnovcan's user avatar
36 votes

Why is, "If I don't use the microphone, nobody will hear me," not considered a double negative

In most forms of standard English, negatives don't agree with each other, each negative negates something separately. So: "If I use the microphone, somebody will hear me" can mean that ...
Dan Getz's user avatar
  • 4,449
34 votes

I can't take you anywhere!

The first sentence actually means the opposite of what it says. You spilled your coffee again! Usually when it's used this way it's marked with a question mark: You haven't spilled your coffee ...
Catija's user avatar
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34 votes
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Are "I have no idea" and "I have no ideas" both correct, and if so, are they synonymous?

They are both correct and they do not mean the same thing. "I have no idea" means "I do not know the answer to your particular question." It is about a complete lack of knowledge. ...
ohwilleke's user avatar
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33 votes

Why is there no article after "no" in "I have no car"

Articles belong to a group of words called "determiners". Besides articles, there are other determiners in the English language, and "no" is a determiner too. Let me quote from BBC: No is a ...
CowperKettle's user avatar
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33 votes
Accepted

Why is there no article after "no" in "I have no car"

"A" is like saying "one": I have a car I have one car Logically then, saying "no" is like saying "zero": I have no car I have zero cars. Therefore, there is no need for an article. "Not" is ...
Astralbee's user avatar
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32 votes

"Do never..." vs. "Do not ever..."

We can say things like: Don't ever text while driving. Don't ever do such a foolish and dangerous thing! Never text while driving. Never do such a foolish and dangerous thing! But we don't ...
TimR's user avatar
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31 votes
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Can I safely use "not" instead of words with negative prefixes?

Often the "un" form is stronger than the not form. happy neutral sad more happy <----------|------|------|--------->less happy Unhappy is often roughly the ...
James K's user avatar
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30 votes
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dogs, not cats -> why 'not'?

"Dogs, not cats" is not a sentence: it is a contraction of a sentence. A fuller sentence would be (for example): "I mean dogs, not cats." That, in turn is a contraction of: "I mean ...
TrevorD's user avatar
  • 809
28 votes

Meaning of "respecting" in "no law respecting an establishment of religion"

The bolded phrase in your question is expressed in an archaic negative - it is saying that Congress is prohibited from making any laws that promote an Established Religion (which is a phrase commonly ...
Jeff Zeitlin's user avatar
  • 4,791
22 votes

What does “not one of them“ mean?

Strictly mathematically, if you only had "not one", it could mean zero, or could mean a hundred, or any other number besides 1. However, this idiom ("not one of them") is a stronger version of "none ...
vsz's user avatar
  • 554
21 votes

"I am not hungry no more."

Grammatically speaking, in standard/formal English a negative negates something. Two negatives together form something called a double negative, where the second negative reverses the first one. This ...
SteveES's user avatar
  • 4,659
20 votes
Accepted

"The irony was lost on no one, least of all"

"Least of all" is an idiom used with a negative statement meaning, of all those that we have just mentioned, this one meets the condition less than any of the others. i.e. the condition is negative, ...
Jay's user avatar
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20 votes

What's the difference between "Was this supposed to be...” and “Wasn't this supposed to be…"?

Let's look at a simpler example. Someone you haven't spoken to for a while phones you up, and you say "Great to hear from you!"... 1: ..."Was it a month ago when we last spoke?" 2:...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
19 votes

dogs, not cats -> why 'not'?

Ellipsis (linguistics) — Wikipedia It refers to the omission from a clause of one or more words that are nevertheless understood in the context of the remaining elements. There are numerous ...
NVZ's user avatar
  • 473
19 votes

Meaning of "respecting" in "no law respecting an establishment of religion"

In this case, "respecting" is equivalent to "with respect to" or "concerning": with/in respect to In reference or relation to; concerning: thefreedictionary.com So this phrase may be understood ...
Robusto's user avatar
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18 votes

Why is, "If I don't use the microphone, nobody will hear me," not considered a double negative

The statement that one should not use a double negative is a caution against a particular dialect form well-known to native English speakers. It is something primary school teachers say to native ...
David42's user avatar
  • 2,850
15 votes
Accepted

Why is the tag question positive in this dialogue from Downton Abbey? "Then we must be ready by tomorrow, must we?"

English tag questions have so many forms, I doubt I could do the topic true justice in an answer. Essentially, as written, this is a 'unbalanced tag question'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
DoneWithThis.'s user avatar
14 votes
Accepted

Understand (may not): The students may not borrow more than 3 books in one month

While one meaning of "may" is "be in some degree likely to", in this case the meaning is probably "have permission to". Assuming the latter definition, the statement means that students are not ...
Andy Schweig's user avatar
  • 1,225
14 votes

What does “not one of them“ mean?

The etymology (in fact, even the definition) of none is literally 'not one', so technically the quote is just using the long version of 'None'. Read like that it becomes: None of them thought it ...
mcalex's user avatar
  • 6,136
14 votes

What does "I never stopped to think of it" mean?

As the other answers have said this isn't a double negative. Your confusion seems to come from the interpretation of the phrase "stopped to think" which has a very different meaning from &...
Indigo's user avatar
  • 271
13 votes

"Do never..." vs. "Do not ever..."

never and not ever are almost equivalent, but there are some restrictions on the use of the latter. As for do never, in this context it's an oxymoron- two words used together that have, or seem to ...
JavaLatte's user avatar
  • 59.7k
12 votes
Accepted

Irreproducible, unreproducible, non-reproducible or not reproducible, which one to use?

There isn't a hard-and-fast rule to determine which negating prefix to use; however, there's a very loose ‘guideline’1 that sometimes works: un- is usually prepended (attached) to Germanic words in- (...
Void's user avatar
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11 votes
Accepted

How can an event prove by itself?

The it in the sentence is just the dummy it. An English sentence has to have a subject, but sometimes there's no obvious subject for a sentence, so we use it to stand for the existence or nature of ...
stangdon's user avatar
  • 40.8k
11 votes
Accepted

Is "should" or "shouldn't" appropriate in this sentence?

'Hardly' makes the main clause negative, so the question tag should be in affirmative form. Whatever auxiliary verb appears in the main clause should usually be repeated in the question tag. This ...
Jaime's user avatar
  • 1,206
11 votes
Accepted

It's only the fool who becomes anything. - Why is "anything" used?

The reason that anything works here is because, although the sentence is technically positive polarity, it has a type of negative meaning. Words like anything, ever, at all, and yet usually occur in ...
Araucaria - Not here any more.'s user avatar
10 votes

not well-educated

As ably explained by @James in his answer, it is far better to describe someone as they are rather than for something that they are not. Most of the sentences you list just would not be heard. But ...
Astralbee's user avatar
  • 102k

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