double negative: couldn't not

ticcota

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello,

When I heard something really bad and I felt hurt, so I say, "I couldn't not feel hurt after hearing that." meaning "I couldn't hear that without feeling hurt." Does the sentence in bold sound natural at all?

Thank you.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    People will understand this as a humorous way to express the idea: I couldn't not take an offer like that = I just had to take that offer. I'd choose a more straightforward way to express something I felt strongly about:
    "I couldn't stand to hear it" or "It hurt me to hear it".
     
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    MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    "I couldn't not feel hurt after hearing that."

    This is an excellent way of expressing yourself, especially in response to someone who thinks you are over-reacting to what you heard. It is equivalent to saying, 'any reasonable person would feel hurt by that'.

    This double negative - 'couldn't not' - is primarily used when something really good is presented to the person, and it is too good to turn down, too good to just let go.

    My car dealer sent me a letter. Mazda would pay me the going trade-in value for my car, and deduct another £5,000 off the price for a new one. So, I could get a brand new car for £6,000. It was an offer too good to refuse/ I couldn't not snap it up.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Personally I prefer the possibly more literary formula I couldn't but feel hurt after hearing that.

    Here's a modern use of it

    Watching Slumdog Millionaire, I couldn't but be reminded of the cheapness and utter emptiness of the Indian middle-class's hysterical reaction to the recent events in Mumbai. (Source)
     
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