Russian double negative' - Article about Russian negation
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Double Negative

Why a Slavic smile is a sincere smile

happy sad smiley
  

A lot of countries abroad think that Ukrainian and Russian people do not smile a lot and look unhappy.

If you come to Ukraine first time (especially if you use public transport) you will see people with unsatisfied faces and even if you try to speak with someone don’t wait for a smile.

When I was first time abroad in the USA my friend and I were inside the metro of Chicago.
We saw two girls were looking at us and heard their conversation:

- Look at these girls! They look very sad. 100% they are from Eastern Europe.

After this situation I realized why people from Eastern Europe are so recognizable.

Second time I dealt with such situation was when I had a group lesson and I needed to explain “Double Negative”.

Никогда никто нигде ничего не делает!

Example Double Negative

In English we say:

I did nothing yesterday. I need nothing to buy. I understand nothing.

In Russian it is:

Я ничего не делал вчера.
Мне ничего не надо покупать.
Я ничего не понял.

Grammar Double Negative

The most important rule about negation in Russian is that if the verb in a sentence is negative that all indefinite pronouns in that phrase should be negative.

In Russian the negative particle "не" always precedes the word it negates.

Normally you should put "не" before the noun and the verb connected with this noun.

Here list of most useful negative words:

никто́ – nobody, no one
ничто́ – nothing
нигде́ – nowhere
никако́й – none

All of them change according to the cases.

Я никого не знаю в этом городе.
(I know nobody in this city).

Она ничего не знает о нем.
(She knows nothing about him).

Он нигде не бывал.
(He has been nowhere).

Мне никакое платье не нравится.
(I like none dress).

As you see from examples Russian speaking people try to emphasize negation of the main information in a sentence with adding one more "не".

So if you ask somebody about something and hear respond with double negative don't be afraid because it's not a rude way to reply.

It was a big surprise for my students to know this. Some of them started to laugh. One student explained this rule very interesting: “All Russian speaking people are very negative about everything. Even they speak with double negative!”

It is difficult to say if using a lot of “нет” has influence on the general smiling level of Russian speaking people.

However to sum it up I would like to add if you see smiling Ukrainian one day it means this is a sincere smile and it is worth it to see it :-)

Wishing you good luck!

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