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No problem!

'No problem' challenges you on Negatives.

Positive statements are one thing ... but how confident are you when dealing with Negatives? As with so many other structures, negatives in English may work differently from those in your own language, and at this level you'll need to do more than just say 'no'. Try these!

The first six Questions have three Answers which say more or less the same thing and are OK in English, so you need to pick out the one that's not so good or clear; the last few (i.e. from Question 7 onwards) only contain one good Answer, so you must pick out just that one.

  1. Three of these versions are alternatives in good English; which one is NOT good?
    Answer 4 has too many negative elements in it; each of the others only has one.
  2. Three of these versions are alternatives in good English; which one is NOT good?
    Again, Answer 2 contains two negative elements (' ... not ... ' / ' ... no more ...' ), which in English is one too many.
  3. Three of these versions are alternatives in good English; which one is NOT good?
    The project will not continue unless, or until, some (positive) person contributes the funds. The version of the conditional clause in Answer 3 is just plain silly, if you look at it carefully ~ with its negative inside. It seems to suggest that the only way forward would be for nobody to help pay for it, which hardly makes sense at all!
  4. Three of these versions are alternatives in good English; which one is NOT good?
    Answer 4 is a grammatical mess, with a plural verb form after 'one' and that double negative later (' haven't ... no ... ').
  5. Three of these versions are alternatives in good English; which one is NOT good?
    Sugar is uncountable, of course ... so the plural verb 'weren't' is wrong (though you may hear this form in certain local or non-standard versions of English, and its meaning remains otherwise reasonably clear).
  6. Three of these versions are alternatives in good English; which one is NOT good?
    Plenty of English speakers and writers might produce the version in Answer 4, but technically it's wrong because the verb 'haven't' is plural, so it doesn't agree directly with 'he'. The situation appears to be that some secret might emerge if either one of them were to talk about it (he OR she); one would be enough. For that reason too, the plural verb is unhelpful.
  7. Which is the ONLY ONE correct way of expressing this idea?
    He may have tried looking everywhere (Answer 2) but could NOT find them ANYwhere.
    (Similar to NOT knowing ANYthing or NOT meeting ANYone at ANY time ... there need only usually ever be ONE negative element.)
  8. Which is the ONLY ONE correct way of expressing this idea?
    Answer 4 is the only one with just one single negative element in it (check carefully!).
  9. Which is the ONLY ONE correct way of expressing this idea?
    'Not in any way' is the nub of the correct version here.
    'Nohow' (Answer 2) probably ought to exist ~ it'd be useful ~ but the only place you may see it in print is in one of the 'Alice' fantasy books of Lewis Carroll, during a conversation between the twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
  10. Which is the ONLY ONE correct way of expressing this idea?
    We do not need a 'do' auxiliary here at all (and if we did, we don't need a second negative element after 'Nobody...'); nor do we need an emphatic present continuous form (Answer 4; here, also, with an extra & unnecessary second negative element).

Author: Ian Miles

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