double negative: It's 'unlikely' that dentists 'won't' ....

edwar f

argentina spanish
If I believe that dentists will be replaced i.e. by technology in the future,

Is it correct to say "It`s unlikely that dentists won`t be needed"?
What is the correct form? "It`s likely that dentist will be needed?" "It`s unlikely that dentists will be needed?
  • boreen

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If you believe that the job of dentists will be replaced by something else, the last one would be correct. "It's unlikely that dentists will be needed." Double negatives in English cancel each other out. So if you say the first one "It's unlikely that dentists won't be needed.) it means that they will be needed.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I prefer to keep the negative as late as possible. I'd probably say here It's likely that dentists will not be needed. I believe that causes more immediate comprehension than It's unlikely that dentists will be needed, though there's little in it.

    The last time we discussed this at length someone interested me by pointing out that cognitive collapse occurs for many people once you get three negatives in a sentence. Don't expect people easily to understand things like He denied that it was unlikely that dentists would become redundant.


    Senior Member
    American English
    As far as I know , two negatives are not possible in English , unlike Spanish .

    They're certainly possible -- they just most often become positives in terms of meaning.

    Here's an interesting article on Wiki which begins: A double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same clause. In most logics and some languages, double negatives cancel one another and produce an affirmative sense; in other languages, doubled negatives intensify the negation. The rhetorical term for this effect, when it leads to an understated affirmation, is litotes. Triple negation, quadruple negation, and so on can also be seen, which leads to the terms multiple negation or negative concord.

    (Ok, it gets more interesting later, when it gets into examples.) :)


    Senior Member
    This is of a great help , thank you ,

    But , can we say something like that ? :

    There isn´t nobody in the room.
    We don´t have nothing to arrange the meeting.

    That´s the point I want to clarify, when it concerns two negatives . According to what they taught me they´re wrong .

    Thank you in advance .


    Senior Member
    USA, English
    As far as I know , two negatives are not possible in English , unlike Spanish .

    This is an untruth that has been taught in schools forever. Negatives balance each other out in math only. It may or may not in English.

    I will give an example:

    She was not beautiful but she was not ugly; she was not tall, but she was not short either; she was not brilliant, but she was not stupid; in all matters she was average.

    She was not an unappealing girl; but she was not particularly desirable either.

    In these cases the two negatives give nuance to a meaning and do not negate each other. In the second sentence the first phrase is definitely not negating, but qualifying.

    The teachers were wrong. Accept that fact.