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Spanish Negation: Complete Guide to Using Spanish Negative Words

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Spanish negation can be a bit complicated for new learners of Spanish. Fortunately, many of the concepts and rules when using negative words in Spanish are really similar to those used in English.

Spanish negation can be as simple as saying no in Spanish when responding to a yes or no question, or it can be a little trickier when using double negatives as in the case with tampoco. Rest assured, we’ll break down all of the rules when it comes to Spanish negation and you’ll be using negative words in Spanish like a pro in no time.

Spanish Negation at a Glance

Spanish

English

No

No

Nadie

Nobody, no one

Nunca

Never

Jamás

Never

Todavía no

Not yet

Ya no 

Not anymore

Nada

Nothing

Ni

Nor

Ni … ni

Neither ... nor

Tampoco

Neither, either

Spanish Negative Words

Spanish Negation Negative Words in Spanish

No

Let’s start off easy. Negation in Spanish can be done through the word no. This word can be used to answer yes-no questions, for example, if someone asks you ¿Te gusta jugar al tenis? (“Do you like playing tennis?”), you can simply answer No.

But it can also be used to negate the verb in the sentence, and so it should always precede it. Its meaning is similar to the English word “do not” or “don’t”. Following the previous example, we could say: 

Spanish

No me gusta jugar al tenis.

English

I don’t like playing tennis.

And, of course, we could also ask a negative question like:

Spanish

¿No te gusta jugar al tenis?

English

Don’t you like playing tennis?

When answering, you can simply reply with No, if you want to answer in the negative, or you could say

Spanish

No, no me gusta jugar al tenis

English

No, I don’t like playing tennis.

If you notice here, in the Spanish response, no is used twice. This structure is followed if you’re answering no to a yes or no question.

Nadie

Nadie in Spanish basically means “nobody” or “no one”. This negative word is used when referring to people.

Spanish

  1. A nadie le gusta jugar al tenis.
  2. Nadie quiere jugar conmigo.

English

  1. Nobody likes playing tennis.
  2. Nobody wants to play with me

And it can sometimes mean “anybody,” especially in questions like:

Spanish

  1. ¿Nadie quiere jugar al tenis?
  2. ¿A nadie le gusta jugar al tenis?

English

  1. Does anybody want to play tennis?
  2. Does anybody like playing tennis?

Nunca

Nunca means “never,” and it’s used as an adverb of frequency, just like in English:

Spanish

  1. Nunca jugué al tenis.
  2. Nunca perdí un partido de tennis

English

  1. I’ve never played tennis
  2. I’ve never lost a tennis match

And it can also be used as the negative answer. And it can be more interesting than simply answering “no”.

Spanish

Q: ¿Alguna vez jugaste al tenis?
A: Nunca.

English

Q: Have you ever played tennis?
A: Never.

Jamás

Jamás is a synonym of nunca. It means also means “never”. Even though it is less commonly used than nunca, jamás can be used in the same way:

Spanish

  1. Jamás jugué al tenis.
  2. Jamás perdí un partido de tenis

English

  1. I’ve never played tennis
  2. I’ve never lost a tennis match

But these two adverbs can also used together forming the phrase Nunca jamás, which is used for emphasis. It’s similar to saying “never ever”.

Spanish

  1. Nunca jamás volveré a jugar al tenis.
  2. Nunca jamás perdí un partido de tenis

English

  1. I will never play tennis ever again.
  2. I’ve never ever lost a tennis match

Todavía no

Todavía no means “not yet,” and is used in the following way:

Spanish

  1. El partido de tenis todavía no terminó.
  2. Todavía no jugué al tenis.

English

  1. The tennis match has not yet finished.
  2. I have not yet played tennis.

The English is translated a bit awkwardly, but I wanted to make it easier show a direct translation. Simly that todavía no simply means not yet.

These words can also be rearranged in the sentence with the same meaning in the following way:

Spanish

  1. El partido de tenis no terminó todavía.
  2. No jugué al tenis todavía.

English

  1. The tennis match has not yet finished.
  2. I have not yet played tennis.

Note that todavía can either go at the beginning, at the end, or in the middle of the sentence. However, no here negates the verb and so no should always go before the verb.

Ya no 

Ya no means “not anymore”. Anymore is usually said at the end in English, but in Spanish, Ya no is put in the beginning and the principle is simliar to the previous examples of Spanish negation. We are negating the action, so the negative word, ya no goes before the verb.

Spanish

  1. Ya no me gusta jugar al tenis.
  2. Ya no quiero jugar más.

English

  1. I don’t like playing tennis anymore.
  2. I don’t want to play anymore.

Nada

You’ve probably heard the word nada before. It’s a quite popular Spanish word among English speakers and it means “nothing” or “anything,” depending on the context.

When used with another negative word, nada takes on the meaning of “anything”. Let’s take a look at some examples below.

Spanish

  1. No quiero jugar a nada hoy.
  2. Nunca me preguntaste nada.
  3. Nadie me dice nada.

English

  1. I don’t want to play anything today.
  2. You’ve never asked me anything.
  3. Nobody tells me anything

*In these examples, nada is used alongside no, nunca, and nadie

But nada when used on its own, without any accompanying negative words, it takes on the meaning of “nothing”.

Spanish

  1. Nada me gusta más que jugar al tenis
  2. Nada es para siempre.

English

  1. There’s nothing I like better than playing tennis
  2. Nothing lasts forever

Ni

The Spanish negation ni is similar to the English “nor”. It is the connector word that is used when listing something and when you’re using a negative statement. In Spanish ni always accompanies another negative word.

Spanish

  1. Nunca juego al tenis ni al fútbol.
  2. No quiero comer carne, pastas ni arroz

English

  1. I never play tennis or soccer.
  2. I don’t want to eat meat, pasta or rice

Ni … ni

Now that we know how to use ni, using ni … ni should be simple. It’s similar to the English use of “neither… nor”—we can use it when we want to talk about two or more negative things. The difference between using one ni or repeating it is that when we repeat ni we emphasize the negation. Let’s take a look at two different ways of using the ni … ni pairing.:

Spanish

  1. Ni quiero tu ayuda ni la necesito
  2. No juego ni al tenis ni al fútbol ni a nada

English

  1. I neither want your help nor need it.
  2. I neither play tennis nor soccer nor anything

Tampoco

Lastly, we have tampoco which is similar to “neither,” “either,” or “also not.” This word is usually used with other negative words:

Spanish

  1. No juego al tenis ni tampoco al fútbol.
  2. lla no quiere comer y yo tampoco.

English

  1. I don’t play tennis and I also don’t play soccer.
  2. She doesn’t want to it and neither do I.

Though it can appear on its own in a sentence, there should always be something before that triggers the use of tampoco. For example, if someone said No me gusta jugar al tenis (“I don’t like playing tennis), we could answer A mí tampoco me gusta jugar al tenis (“I don’t like playing tennis either”).

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