Double Negation to achieve a positive meaning

Xavier da Silva

Senior Member
Hello everyone,

I've read here on W.R that you can use a double negation to achieve a positive meaning. For example: nobody works for nothing. My question: do the double negations below sound correct in the examples I made?

a. The investigation didn't come to nothing and the guilty ones were sent to prison. Justice was done.
b. The lawyer said that this case won't come to nothing. Justice will be done.

Come to nothing: not result in anything; end in nothing; fizzle out.

Thank you in advance!
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    a. The investigation didn't come to nothing and the guilty ones were sent to prison. Justice was done.
    b. The lawyer said that this case won't come to nothing. Justice will be done.

    Both of these are potentially ambiguous, because in some non-standard dialects of English "won't come to nothing" means "will come to nothing." I would substitute "naught / nought" for "nothing" or re-word it.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with The Newt. I couldn't use either of those terms, since the meaning isn't clear.
    The investigation was worthwhile.
    The lawyer said that this case will have a successful outcome.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The sentences are worded as they would be if they followed and contradict a previous sentence.

    Such as

    "Since the Mafia threatened many of the witnesses , many people thought the investigation would come to nothing."

    Now, your wording is unambiguous and suitable.

    "However, the investigation didn't come to nothing and the guilty ones were sent to prison. Justice was done."
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Both of these are potentially ambiguous, because in some non-standard dialects of English "won't come to nothing" means "will come to nothing." I would substitute "naught / nought" for "nothing" or re-word it.
    I'd only spell it naught.

    Nought means the digit 0 for me.
     
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