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Test PrepACTEnglishDouble Negatives

ACT English Skill Review: Double Negatives

In math, two negatives make a positive. The same is true in writing. If we use two negatives, each invalidates the other. For example, consider the sentence:

I don’t have no marbles.

If I don’t have no marbles, the two negatives (don’t and no) cancel each other out, leaving you, in effect, with the following:

I don’t have no marbles.

Thus, I must have some marbles! So here’s the rule:

When you want to make a negative statement, you should use only one negative word.

Common negative words include nothing, none, never, not, neither, scarcely, barely, hardly, and without.

Example

  1. I couldn’t never have finished that difficult job by myself.

    1. NO CHANGE
    2. could never have
    3. couldn’t hardly of
    4. couldn’t ever of

Answer and Explanation

  1. The correct answer is B. Since the sentence already utilizes a negative word (couldn’t), you don’t need the second one (never). Choice B gets rid of the first negative by changing couldn’t to could allowing us to keep the second negative never. Don’t be fooled by choice D. Although couldn’t ever would work in this sentence, we must say have finished rather than of finished.


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