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Lesson Plan: Teaching First Year Spanish Students to Negate Spanish Sentences

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 3/2/2012

The following article describes a lesson plan for teaching sentence negation in Spanish and includes examples to illustrate negated Spanish sentences. The lesson plan also includes a practice exercise with answers.

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    Spanish Negation

    The following lesson plan can be used by Spanish teachers to teach first year English-speaking Spanish students to negate sentences in Spanish with the words no, nunca, nada, and nadie.

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    Vocabulary for Negation

    First introduce the vocabulary for Spanish negation. The four words Spanish students need to learn for negation are:

    • no – not
    • nunca – never
    • nada – nothing OR none
    • nadie – no one OR nobody

    Also teach the parts of speech for each vocabulary word. The words no and nunca are adverbs. The words nada and nadie are pronouns. Negative adverbs are used to negate verb phrases. Negative pronouns are used to negate noun phrases.

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    Negation with No

    Next explain the use of the adverb no for negation in Spanish. The adverb no in Spanish is used similarly to the adverb not in English for sentence negation. In Spanish, the no is inserted directly before the conjugated verb. For example, the following sentence pairs are examples of positive and negated Spanish sentences containing the adverb no:

    • Comí la torta. "I ate the cake." (positive)
    • No comí la torta. "I did not eat the cake." (negated)

    • Los niños pueden leer el libro. "The children can read the book." (positive)
    • Los niños no pueden leer el libro. "The children cannot read the book." (negated)

    • Ella habrá estado estudiando. "She will have been studying." (positive)
    • Ella no habrá estado estudiando. "She will not have been studying." (negated)
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    Negation with Nunca

    Then explain the use of the adverb nunca for negation in Spanish. In Spanish, the adverb nunca can appear before or after the verb phrase or at the end of the sentence. If the adverb nunca appears in a position other than in front of the conjugated verb, then the adverb no must also be inserted before the conjugated verb. For example, the following sentence pairs are examples of positive and negated Spanish sentences containing the adverb nunca:

    • Me lavo siempre las manos. "I always wash my hands." (positive)
    • Nunca me lavo las manos. "I never wash my hands." (negated)

    • Mi perro bebe la leche. "My dog drinks milk." (positive)
    • Mi perro no bebe nunca la leche. "My dog never drinks milk." (negated)

    • Mi gato come pescados. "My cat eats fish." (positive)
    • Mi gato no come pescados nunca. "My cat never eats fish." (negated)
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    Negation with Nada

    Next explain the use of the pronoun nada for negation in Spanish. The pronoun nada can appear in any position as other nouns in Spanish. The adverb no must also be inserted before the conjugated verb. For example, the following sentence pairs are examples of positive and negated Spanish sentences containing the pronoun nada:

    • Tengo algo. "I have some."
    • No tengo nada. "I have none." OR "I don't have any."

    • Hay algo en la casa. "There is something in the house."
    • No hay nada en la casa. "There is nothing in the house."

    • ¿Comió algo? "Did you eat something?"
    • ¿No comió nada? "Did you eat nothing?"
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    Negation with Nadie

    Then explain the use of the pronoun nadie for negation in Spanish. The pronoun nadie can also appear in any position as other nouns in Spanish. If the pronoun nadie appears in a position after the conjugated verb, then the adverb no must also be inserted before the conjugated verb. If the pronoun nadie refers to a person and is used as an object, then the personal a must be placed before the pronoun. For example, the following sentence pairs of positive and negated Spanish sentences contain the pronoun nadie:

    • Alguien estudia. "Somebody studies." (positive)
    • Nadie estudia. "Nobody studies." (negated)

    • Él besó a alguien. "He kissed someone." (positive)
    • Él no besó a nadie. "He kissed no one." (negated)

    • Vimos a alguien. "We saw someone." (positive)
    • No vimos a nadie. "We saw no one." OR "We didn't see anyone." (negated)
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    Double Negatives

    Finally discuss the use of double negatives in negated Spanish sentences. Prescriptive grammars prohibit the use of double negatives in English. However, Spanish encourages and sometimes requires the use of multiple negatives for negation. For example, the adverb no must be placed before the conjugated verb when the negative adverb nunca or the negative pronoun nadie follow the verb. Spanish also allows for more than two negatives. For example, the following sentences are examples of the use of multiple negatives in Spanish:

    • No tengo nada nunca. "I never have any."
    • Él no ve a nadie nunca. "He never sees anyone."
    • No desayunamos nunca. "We never eat breakfast."
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    Spanish Negation Practice Exercise

    Use the following exercise to practice negating sentences in Spanish. Construct negated sentences by inserting the negative word in parentheses. Note that several answers are possible for some sentences.

    Las Oraciones

    • Bailo. (no)
    • Como el helado. (no, nunca)
    • Comí algo. (nada)
    • Canto. (nunca)
    • Hablé con alguien. (nadie)

    Las Respuestas Posibles

    • No bailo.
    • No como el helado nunca.
    • No comí nada.
    • Nunca canto.
    • No hablé con nadie.