BLP A-Z of Learning English: «N» for «No»

BLP A-Z of Learning English: «N» for «No»

Karen Thorley

20 Ways to say “NO” in English

1. In answers – the opposite of “yes”:

uh-uh (with downward intonation – with upward intonation it means “yes”

2. Body language:

Shaking your head (in western cultures !!)
Wagging your finger

3. Grammatical Negative Structures with “Not”:

(1) Doesn’t contract
(2) Don’t/doesn’t need to vs. needn’t have different meanings

Remember the contracted form is more common in speaking and more informal writing. Generally speaking we do not contract in business writing, except in informal emails.

4. Negation with other negative words:

Remember, in English, like maths, two negatives make a positive!!)
Nowhere, no-one, nobody, nothing, nonsense: Remember these are singular pronouns and the verb must be in the positive form :

  • There is nowhere to eat (Not “There isn’t nowhere to eat).
  • No-one/nobody knows where he is
  • Nothing is happening at the moment
  • This is nonsense = Please somebody speak some sense!!

5. “NO” For negative quantity adverb – remember the verb must be in the positive:

There are no apples left = There aren’t any left
At no time did he see her* come in to the room …..=  he didn’t see her at any  time.
At no point in time shall I* ever stop loving you = I will never stop loving you ever.
There is no way I will ever live there. = It is impossible for me to ever live there.

(*Note: when you start a sentence with a negative adverb the first part of the sentence is inversed for dramatic effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzNxZGC-Hg0)

6. None (as a zero quantity pronoun):

How apples are there left ? None I’m afraid.
How many cars are there parked in the street? None that I can see.
How many friends has she got in her new school ? None yet. But she’s only been there one day
I haven’t eaten any = I ate none!

7. Not + yet/any (As “not” is the negation, “yet” and “any” are neutral):

I haven’t seen the new office building yet
I haven’t got any money (some very colloquial accents say “I ain’t got no money” or “He hasn’t got no friends” and although it’s common, it is not correct)
I haven’t seen him at any time
I haven’t seen him yet.

8. Never:

I have never been so happy
I will never stop loving you
I would never have thought of that!

9. Neither (for agreement):

I can’t stand chocolate ice cream ! How strange, neither can I
I’m not going to the party tomorrow – me neither

10. Nor (for alternatives):

I can’t eat carrots, nor peas
Peter can’t come to the party, nor can Mark

11. Neither & nor (together) (for double alternatives – this is the nearest to a double negative in English):

I can’t stand neither carrots nor peas!!!

12. To fail to do something = to not do it:

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail(if you don’t plan, you will be unsuccessful  in the future)

13. Verbs or adjectives with negative connotations:

To – deny/negate/ refuse/dread/fear/dislike/disagree /stink / regret / upset….etc
To be – stubborn/sly/mean/tough/moody/rotten/big-headed/ messy / upset… etc

14. Negative infinitives:

I told him not to go out
He showed her how not to make a mistake = He showed her how to avoid mistakes
I prefer not to go to the beach this weekend

15. Negative questions:

16. Nontheless/Nevertheless:

As contrast:
He hates his job, nevertheless he can’t leave, he has too many debts
I don’t really like the conditions, nonetheless, I decided to accept.


  1. Non the wiser“– meaning that if you don’t know something, you won’t suffer (What the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve):
    My son hit Mary’s beautiful vase of flowers with his ball and spilt everything on the floor. Luckily it didn’t break.
    Don’t worry, if we fill it again with the flowers and clean up the water, Mary will be none the wiser. (=She’ll never know so won’t be upset about it)
  2. Never the twain shall meet When two parties are destined not to meet:
    “When Pepe and Ana divorced, they wanted to be as far apart as possible so he went to Russia and she went to Canada – never the twain shall meet!“
  3. Not over my dead body – Something I will never accept.
    “Mum, can I have a tattoo on my hand?”
    “No way”” Not over my dead body!!”
  4. Two wrongs don’t make a right = if person A does something wrong, person B shouldn’t do something wrong in revenge… that doesn’t make things right! 

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