Negative Sentences: Definition, Formation and Examples

Negative sentences, in general, are sentences that express denial or negation. They are typically used to state the absence or opposite of something, or to contradict a positive statement. In English, negative sentences often use words like “not” or contractions like “don’t” or “isn’t” to indicate negation.

In this article, I’ll show you how to make good negative sentences that will take your Russian language skills to the next level and enable you to express yourself with clarity and confidence.

The Simple Negative

In Russian, negative sentences are formed by using the word “не” [nyе] before the verb/noun/pronoun/adjective to indicate negation.

Let’s look at some examples:

Я не говорю по-английски. – I don’t speak English.

Он не любит морепродукты. – He doesn’t like seafood.

Мы не ходили в кино вчера. – We didn’t go to the movies yesterday.

Она не пришла на встречу. – She didn’t come to the meeting.

Они не знают этого человека. – They don’t know this person.

Это не лучшая идея. – This is not a good idea.

In these examples, “не” is used to negate the verbs “говорю” (speak), “любит” (like), “ходили” (go), “пришла” (come), “знают” (know), and the adjective “лучший” (good, best).

The particle не is a key component in forming negative sentences in Russian. It is used to express negation and to indicate the absence or denial of an action or quality. It always precedes the negated word.

Я не понимаю. – I don’t understand.

Он не ест мясо. – He doesn’t eat meat.

Нас там не было. – We weren’t there.

Я не студент. – I am not a student.

Это не улица, а проспект. – It’s not a street, it’s an avenue.

Это не интересно. – This is not interesting.

Моя зарплата не очень большая. – My paycheck isn’t very big.

Это не мой автомобиль. – This is not my car.

Simple negative in Russian

When we want to express the absence of something, we use the word ‘нет‘:

У меня нет времени. – I don’t have time.

Здесь нет людей. – There are no people here.

See Also: The Concept of Possession in Russian

The Compound Negative

The compound negative is created by using the particle “не” and the word “ни” together to intensify the negation. Ни usually functions as a negative prefix, attached to certain adverbs, adjectives, or pronouns, to intensify the negation.

Here are a few examples:

Мы ни с кем не спорим. – We don’t argue with anyone.

Я никогда не говорю по телефону в кинотеатре. – I never talk on the phone in the cinema.

Он ничего не ест после шести вечера. – He doesn’t eat anything after six in the evening.

Здесь никого нет. – There’s no one here.

So, the pattern of the compound negative is:

a negative adverb/adjective/pronoun + не + a verb”

The addition of “ни” in compound negative sentences further emphasizes and strengthens the negation, indicating a complete lack or refusal. The placement of “не” and “ни” within the sentence may vary depending on the structure and emphasis desired.

Negatives in Russian differ from those in English, primarily because English typically does not use double negatives for negation. In Russian, it is common to use double negatives to intensify the negation or emphasize the absence of something.

For example:

Russian: Я никогда никому ничего не говорю. (Double negative.)

English: I never tell anyone anything. (Single negative)

In the Russian sentence, the combination of “никогда” (never), “никому” (to anyone), and “ничего” (anything) strengthens the negation. In English, a simple negative form is sufficient to express the same meaning.

Therefore, it is important to be aware of these differences when translating or understanding negative expressions between English and Russian.

If you want more examples of using compound negatives in Russian, here they are:

Я не вижу ничего плохого в том, что они делают. – I don’t see anything wrong with what they are doing.

У меня не было ни малейшего сомнения в его искренности. – I didn’t have the slightest doubt about his sincerity.

Она не делает ничего без поддержки своих родителей. – She doesn’t do anything without the support of her parents.

У него нет ни малейшего желания измениться. – He has no desire whatsoever to change.

У меня не осталось никаких сомнений в этом вопросе. – I have no doubts left about this matter.

Я не слышал ни слова о его приезде. – I didn’t hear a word about his arrival.

Он не ощутил никакой боли после операции. – He didn’t feel any pain whatsoever after the surgery.

Я ни в коем случае не хотел тебя обидеть. – I absolutely didn’t want to hurt your feelings under any circumstances.

Ничто не помешает нам достичь этой цели. – Nothing will prevent us from achieving this goal.

Он ни секунды не сомневался, что это лучшее решение. – He never doubted for a second that this is the best decision.

See Also: The Ultimate Guide to Russian Sentence Structure

Double Negation

Remember that in Russian there is also double negation, when the negative particle не is used twice. In this case, the sentence acquires a positive rather than negative meaning.

For example:

Не могу не согласиться. – I cannot disagree.

Я не могу не похвалить его работу. – I absolutely cannot refrain from praising his work.

Никто не может сказать, что эта книга не интересна. – No one can say that this book is not interesting.

Ещё не / уже не / больше не

The adverbs “ещё не“, “уже не“, and “больше не” are commonly used in Russian to form negative sentences.

Ещё не” is used to express that something has not happened yet or is not happening at this time:

  • Он ещё не пришёл. – He hasn’t arrived yet.
  • Я ещё не закончил работу. – I haven’t finished my work yet.
  • Мы ещё не видели этот фильм. – We haven’t seen this movie yet.

Уже не” and “больше не” indicate that something is not happening anymore or is no longer the case:

  • Она уже не живёт в этом городе. – She no longer lives in this city.
  • Этот ресторан уже не работает. – This restaurant is no longer open.
  • Он уже не интересуется этой темой. – He is no longer interested in this topic.
  • Мы больше не видимся. – We don’t see each other anymore.
  • Я больше не пью кофе. – I no longer drink coffee.
  • Они больше не работают вместе. – They no longer work together.

It is important to pay attention to the verb form that follows these expressions and to use them in the appropriate context. These expressions can help convey the timing or cessation of actions in a clear and concise manner.

Prohibition

Negatives are commonly used in prohibition sentences to express what is not allowed or forbidden:

В музее не разрешается фотографировать. – Taking photographs is not allowed in the museum.

Не нужно кричать в общественных местах. – Do not shout in public places.

Не нужно обсуждать эту тему здесь. – Do not discuss this topic here.

Не надо ходить по газону. – Do not walk on the lawn.

Не надо тратить все деньги. – Do not spend all your money.

Они не должны играть с огнём. – They should not play with fire.

В этом помещении нельзя курить. – Smoking is not allowed in this area.

Нельзя говорить громко в библиотеке. – Speaking loudly is not allowed in the library.

When using these expressions in prohibition sentences, it is important to pay attention to the verb form that follows them. The verb should be in the infinitive form. Additionally, these expressions can be combined with other words to further specify the action or behavior that is prohibited.

Unadvisable Actions

The following expressions with negatives in Russian convey the idea of actions being unadvisable or not recommended. Take note of the specific verb forms and vocabulary used in each sentence to ensure accuracy and convey the intended meaning.

Не стоит опаздывать на работу. – It’s not advisable to be late for work.

Не стоит покупать этот товар. – It’s not advisable to buy this product.

Не рекомендуется употреблять алкоголь перед вождением. – It’s not recommended to consume alcohol before driving.

Не желательно разговаривать по телефону в театре. – It’s not desirable to talk on the phone in the theater.

Не рекомендую употреблять этот продукт без консультации врача. – I don’t recommend consuming this product without consulting a doctor.

Не рекомендую оставлять вещи без присмотра. – I don’t recommend leaving belongings unattended.

Test Yourself

Are you ready to put your knowledge of negative sentences in Russian to the test? In this set of exercises, we will challenge your understanding and application of negative constructions.

The exercises consist of a variety of tasks, including completing sentences with the appropriate negative forms, translating sentences from English to Russian while maintaining the negative meaning, and selecting the correct negative particle to complete a sentence. As you complete these exercises, pay attention to the specific particles used and their placement within the sentence.

Exercise 1

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate negative form.

1. Мы ________ видели его на вечеринке. (We didn’t see him at the party.)

2. Она ________ хочет есть мясо. (She doesn’t want to eat meat.)

3. Они ________ читали эту книгу. (They didn’t read this book.)

4. У них ________ детей. (They don’t have kids.)

Exercise 2

Translate the following sentences from English to Russian, maintaining the negative meaning.

1. I don’t like cold weather.

2. She never goes to bed late.

3. We haven’t seen him for several days.

4. They don’t have any siblings.

5. He doesn’t want to go to the party.

5. We don’t have any problems.

6. She never misses classes.

7. I don’t drink coffee.

8. I didn’t hear about such an event.

9. It was not an easy decision.

10. I can’t imagine what they could say about this matter.

11. I didn’t understand the question.

12. She never puts things off for tomorrow.

13. I don’t want to watch this movie.

14. She didn’t say anything about this case.

15. He didn’t have a single idea coming up.

16. He never arrives late for work.

Answers

Ex. 1

1. Мы не видели его на вечеринке.

2. Она не хочет есть мясо.

3. Они не читали эту книгу.

4. У них нет детей.

Ex. 2

1. Я не люблю холодную погоду.

2. Она никогда не ложится спать поздно.

3. Мы не видели его несколько дней.

4. У них нет братьев и сестёр.

5. Он не хочет идти на вечеринку.

5. У нас нет никаких проблем.

6. Она никогда не пропускает уроки.

7. Я не пью кофе.

8. Я не слышал о таком мероприятии/событии.

9. Это не было лёгким решением.

10. Я не могу представить, что они могут сказать по этому поводу.

11. Я не понял вопрос(а).

12. Она никогда не откладывает дела на завтра.

13. Я не хочу смотреть этот фильм.

14. Она ничего не сказала об этом случае.

15. У него не возникло ни одной идеи.

16. Он никогда не опаздывает на работу.

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