Forming Negative Phrases

There are a few different ways to say no, to make a sentence negative, or to refer to a quantity that is zero. Here are some of the important words to know:
não paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio no, not
nada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nothing
ninguém paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nobody
nenhum paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(masculine)
nenhuma paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(feminine)

Not

Não paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio No, not
The simplest way to make a sentence negative in Portuguese is just to place the word não paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio no, not before the verb. This is the Portuguese equivalent of adding “no” or “not” to a sentence in English. Examples:
Esta mota é rápida. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio This motorbike is fast.
Esta mota não é rápida. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio This motorbike is not fast.

Double Negatives

nada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nothingninguém paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio nobody nenhum paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(masculine)nenhuma paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(feminine)
As you’ll see below, nada, ninguém, nenhum, and nenhuma are sometimes used with the word não to form a double negative, which is a perfectly acceptable construction in Portuguese. The negatives don’t cancel each other out, but instead reinforce each other. In English, we use the word “any” instead, so that “I do not want none” becomes “I do not want any“.
Let’s go over each word to better understand how to use these negatives forms in context.

Nothing

Nada paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Nothing is the equivalent of  “nothing”. It is only used for things or abstract concepts, not for people. Examples:
Nada é novo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Nothing is new
Eu não quero nada. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I do not want anything.

Nobody

Ninguém paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Nobody is the equivalent of “no one” or “nobody”, and it is used when talking about people. Examples:
Ninguém sabe o que aconteceu. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Nobody knows what happened.
Eu não conheço ninguém. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I do not know anyone.

None

In Portuguese, words often change form to match the gender and number of the subject of the sentence. Nenhum paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio None(masculine) is the masculine form of the word “none” and nenhuma paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(feminine) is the feminine form. This is in contrast to nada and ninguém, which are always the same (i.e. they are invariable).
Nenhum paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio None(masculine) and nenhuma paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(feminine) are used for both people and things. Examples:
Nenhum dos convidados trouxe comida. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio None of the guests brought food.
Nenhuma destas camisas me serve. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio None of these shirts fit me.
Nenhum and nenhuma also have plural forms: nenhuns paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(masculine, plural) and nenhumas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio none(feminine, plural). In these examples, the translation is roughly equivalent to the English word “any” when “any” is paired with a negative. Examples:
Não vejo canetas nenhumas! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I do not see any pens!
Não ouço cães nenhuns! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I do not hear any dogs!
This plural form is usually employed when you want to answer questions emphatically. Notice that in this case, with não paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio no at the start of the sentence, the plural form is placed after the noun.
In a future Unit we’ll also explore adverbs of negation.

Comments

    • Hi, Kate. The way the sentences are constructed, it’s enough for “dos” and “das” to be pluralized, in agreement with the noun. Think of it as saying “Not one of the guests…”/”Not one of the shirts…”. In fact, most of us prefer to always use “nenhum” in the singular form (except for those cases of double negations that are described at the end). So, we could also say “Nenhum convidado trouxe comida”, but it’s unlikely you’ll hear anyone say “Nenhuns convidados trouxeram comida”.

  • Por favor. Qual é a frase correta?

    “Não tenho dinheiro nenhum.” ou “Não tenho dinheiro nenhuns.”

    Ou outra frase é correta?

    Obrigado

    • A frase correta é “Não tenho dinheiro nenhum”, porque ‘dinheiro’ é um substantivo (noun) singular. Só quando tens um substantivo no plural é que ‘nenhum’ passa a ‘nenhuns’ (masculino) ou ‘nenhumas’ (feminino) 🙂

  • Aideen,
    Check out the videos in the Practice section. The disappearing vowels, five pronunciations of the letter “X”, and open and closed vowels to suggest a few. The one phrase that really got me when I moved here was “Até logo” which is pronounced as one word “te-log”. Boa sorte!

  • I completely agree! It would be easier to have phrases only in the present tense at this stage of learning. I also believe that introducing only não and nada for this moment would be enough as the other negative forms I found difficult for now.

  • I found picking out the pronunciation for these negatives difficult. A slow button for each would help enormously.

    • Hi there, thanks for the feedback! We just added more audio examples to this learning note so that it’s easier to hear those subtle differences in pronunciation. You can click the turtle for each individual word or phrase to hear it nice and slow. Hope that helps!

  • Tough but three days, one hour per day, and I feel pretty good about it. I will certainly visit this lesson in the future.

  • Hi Aideen, thanks for your feedback! I just wanted to update you to let you know that we have added more audio examples to this learning note. Now you’ll be able to play each word individually and you can click the turtle to hear a slower pronunciation. Hope that helps!

  • Guys everything here is so usefull… I never thought learning a language could be so entertaining, … In Uruguay everybody speaks Brazilian portuguese and i’m moving to lisbon in 2 months and its really difficult to find where to learn the REAL portuguese! 😉 Keep it up!

  • Hi,
    There were no recordings for pronunciation with these sentences. It would be so helpful to have them here as well.
    Thank you.
    Não vejo canetas nenhumas!
    I do not see any pens!
    Não ouço cães nenhuns!
    I do not hear any dogs!

    • Hi Candace, sorry about that! We have these on the list to record, so they should have audio soon. 🙂

  • Nenhum and nenhuma are both hard to prounounce, can one just use ninguem and nada…?
    Or is that cheating ?

    • I’m sorry to say that it’s cheating, Björn 🙂 These words don’t overlap much in terms of use, so if you tried to substitute one for the others, you’d sound incoherent a lot of the time! But that “nh” sound (plus the nasal ending) is a tough one, you’re right.

  • In the exercise above where it says nobody knows what happened the three letter combination Ç followed by ã followed by an o seems to be pronounced differently than usual is there a reason for the difference in the nasalness of the pronunciation of this word I’m sort of used this letter combination being pronounced like the American word Sow as in a female pig with a slightly more nasal pronunciation

    • Olá, Michelle. I’d like to help, but I’m not sure what you’re referring to, because there’s no ‘-ção’ in that sentence (Ninguém sabe o que aconteceu). Did you mean something else?

  • I am confused with “Nenhum deles se queixou.” (None of them complained.)
    What is the function of “se” in this sentence? and also “deles”?

    • Unlike English, in Portuguese, “to complain” is a reflexive verb: “queixar-se”. So you have to add the clitic reflexive pronoun “se”. Here’s some more info on reflexive pronouns. As for deles, this is the contraction of “de” and “eles”, i.e. “of them”. You can learn more about this in the Possessives unit. 🙂

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