be idle / do nothing

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Li'l Bull

Senior Member
Spanish (Spain)
Hi, everyone.

I'd like to express the following idea in different words:

I can't be idle (i.e. I'm the kind of person that needs to be busy all the time)​

I'd like to use a paraphrase with "I can't be ..." Is this version OK?:

I can't be doing nothing.

To be honest with you, the be doesn't sound too good to me. Maybe something like this?:

I can't spend all day doing nothing. - By the way, is the double negative alright?​

Thank you in advance.
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Is the meaning of your sentence "I must act"?
    Never trust the "meaning" of a double negative. It is incorrect. Some people use double-negatives for emphasis. Others do not:
    - I can't never win no-how no-way. (4 negatives for emphasis)
    - I can't not win. (I must win)

    By the way, in the sentence I can't just be doing nothing, replacing nothing with anything wouldn't make sense, would it?
    Whenever I get confused by these words, I split them up.
    anything = any thing
    nothing = no thing

    Those have opposite meanings. So you can say:

    I can't just be doing nothing.
    I can't just not be doing anything.

    Putting "just" in between saves us from making a double-negative!
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