12.7 - Negative sentences

Negatives have a range of grammatical functions in a sentence. For example, you can say that an action did not happen, or comment on the absence of frequency (never), place (nowhere), or doer (no-one, nothing) etc. Like their positive equivalents, negative sentences have a subject, and may also have an object (direct or indirect), adverbs and adjectives, expressed by negative words or phrases as presented below:

verb-negating adverb

не not Він працює? Ні, не працює.
Is he working? No, he's not working.

adverb of time

ніколи never / not ever Президент ніколи не читає про себе.
The President never reads about himself.

adverbs of place

ніде nowhere / not anywhere Багато молоді ніде не вчиться і не працює.
Many young people are not studying or working anywhere.
нікуди to nowhere На вихідні ми нікуди не їдемо.
We're not going (to) anywhere at the week-end.
нізвідки from nowhere Ніщо нізвідки не береться.
Nothing comes from nothing (literally: from nowhere).

adverb of manner

ніяк in no way Політики ніяк не можуть домовитися.
The politicians are completely unable to (literally: cannot in any way) come to an agreement.

conjunction

ні... ні neither ... nor Завтра у місті не буде ні газу, ні води.
Tomorrow the city will be without gas and water (literally: there will be neither gas nor water).

pronoun

ніхто 1 no-one / not anyone Українці нікого не бояться.
Ukrainians aren't afraid of anyone.
ніщо 1 nothing / not anything Це право президента нічим не обмежене.
This presidential right is not limited by anything.

adjective

ніякий 2 none, no (kind of) / not any / none at all Ніякий я не герой.
I'm no hero.
нічий 3 no-one's / not belonging to anyone Нам нічиї поради не потрібні.
We don't need advice from anyone. (literally: No-one's advice is necessary to us)

1 as ніхто and ніщо are pronouns by nature (declined like хто and що - see page 18.6), their form will change according to their function in the sentence (the case). Click here to see their full declension.

2 ніякий is declined as a hard adjective (see page 9.3).

3 нічий is declined like чий - click here.(N.B. The feminine form, нічия, has come into the language to mean a draw in a game of sport, as in «Футбольний матч завершився нічиєю 1-1.»).

As can be seen from the examples above, if a negative is used in a full sentence, the particle не must also be used. Не is not required in one-word answers, as in: «Хто там? Ніхто».

To conclude this review of negatives, the following should also be mentioned:

  • не also frequently acts as a prefix, giving the opposite of adjectives, adverbs or nouns, or suggesting absence, e.g. поганийнепоганий, правданеправда, складнонескладно
  • the particle небудь, as in хто-небудь (anybody), де-небудь (anywhere) etc., is not a negative
  • the phrases мало не, мало що не look like negatives, but they mean "almost/nearly" (used with a verb), as in «Він мало не впав у воду.» (He almost fell into the water.)
  • невже looks like a negative but is, in fact, an interrogative adverb, expressing surprise or incredulity; it usually begins a sentence, as in «Невже йому вже 50?» (Surely he's not 50 years old already?)
  • after немає and other negatives the negated person or object is put in the genitive case (see pages 7.3 and 16.2):
    «Новий контракт є» – «Нового контракту немає»
    «Уряд зробив помилку» – «Уряд не зробив жодної помилки»
    «Я бачу перешкоди» – «Я не бачу перешкод».

To practise understanding negative sentences go to Exercise 12.7A.

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© 2007 Marta Jenkala