Is there a rule about double negations that aren’t meant as double negations (e.g. “We don’t need no education”)?

How can you explain that this double negation is not a double negation? Is there a rule in English about this kind of sentence?

PS / Do I have to mention Pink Floyd Copyright ? 🙂

Edit : Since there are a lot of Pink Floyd related explanation, I’ll bring a Freddy Mercury one : “I don’t have time for no monkey business“, which I also understand as “I don’t have time for monkey business”. Am I right ?


Doubled negatives are often used casually in certain dialects to indicate negative concord, an intensification of negation rather than an inversion of it. This typically happens when both words involved are simple negatives, and is most common with no standing in for a, an, or any alongside don’t or ain’t.

So you can safely assume that

He isn’t not going to the concert.

is double negation proper, because it has emphasis, as is

She wasn’t unimpressed.

because this is litotes, whereas

I ain’t no hillbilly.

is negative concord, because it’s obviously casual, and uses ain’t no in place of am no or am not a. (It’s also a patent lie, but that’s beside the point.)

Source : Link , Question Author : Rabskatran , Answer Author : Jon Purdy

Leave a Comment