I don't need no education / I ain't no nice guy (double negative)

Yoeveryone

New Member
Polish
Hello, as I am not native english speaker, I am confused with the phrases such as "I don't need no education". If someone said "I don't need education" - the meaning is clear; he does not require/want education, but what does it say if someone says for example "i dont need no education" ? Also I have heard/seen something like that "I ain't no nice guy" - what are those and what do they mean? And also, is it correct grammatically?

PS. I do know what word "ain't" means, so there is no need for explaining that.
 
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  • crisstti

    Senior Member
    Chile, Spanish
    Not a native English speaker either :). But until someone who is answers let me say that from what I understand it's not grammatically correct but it's used nonetheless.
     

    Wandering JJ

    Senior Member
    British English
    'I don't need no education' is ungrammatical - it should read (as I think you already know): 'I don't need any education.'
    Similarly, 'I ain't no nice guy' = I am not a nice guy.

    Both are grammatically incorrect, but used by uneducated people.
     

    Yoeveryone

    New Member
    Polish
    Ain't is a short for is not/have not. I read that "i need no education" is a double negative, it means that negative+negative clear each other out giving you a positive meaning.
    Negative+negative= positive
    Negative+positive= negative

    So according to that, "I don't need no education" would mean that you DON'T need NO EDUCATION, but DO NEED [NO CANCELED] EDUCATION. If you said that you DON'T NEED EDUCATION, it would be clear what it means, but if you add "NO" before EDUCATION, then it means that you actually dont need no education = need education. Its quite confusing. I would just like a native speaker to confirm/correct me and give a better explanation if possible.
     

    Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre
    Ain't is a short for is not/have not. I read that "i need no education" is a double negative, it means that negative+negative clear each other out giving you a positive meaning.
    Negative+negative= positive
    Negative+positive= negative

    So according to that, "I don't need no education" would mean that you DON'T need NO EDUCATION, but DO NEED [NO CANCELED] EDUCATION. If you said that you DON'T NEED EDUCATION, it would be clear what it means, but if you add "NO" before EDUCATION, then it means that you actually dont need no education = need education. Its quite confusing. I would just like a native speaker to confirm/correct me and give a better explanation if possible.
    I'm afraid not.
    Lyrics to "Another Brick in the Wall"

    (unless those kids have gone mad)
     

    DearPrudence

    Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Hello Yoeveryone and welcome to the forums :)

    Well, if you wanted the opinion of real native English speakers, you would probably have had more success in the English Only forum.
    But anyway.
    As indicated
    "I don't need no education" is not correct grammar but means
    = "I don't need any education"
    or "I neeed no education"
    Even though theoretically, what you say is right, it is not what happens.
    It is what is called the double negative.

    You might find this comment by English Prototypical & Timpeac on I can't get no sleep interesting:
    Hi!

    I'm assuming this is the Faithless song :) That sentence is actually incorrect but well understood English. Both British and American slang has often used what is called the double negative to mean just a [single] negative. Search for "Double Negative" in Wikipedia for more info (I can't post links)

    The nearest correct English for this would be "I can't get any sleep", or just even "I can't sleep at all". The meaning should convey that it's an ongoing problem (ie insomnia). In French I'd say: Je ne peux pas dormir [de tout] - but I'm sure a native can suggest something more idiomatic...

    There's also another famous song, by Pink Floyd, that goes: We don't need no education, with very similar structure / sense.

    Hope that helps
    In songs a double negative is so common that in my opinion it can't be considered incorrect (in that context). This isn't people making a mistake, or even being unaware of the standard, it is very very normal to use double negatives in song (although nowhere near so common in speech, despite the fact it is certainly heard in some varieties of English). It's similar with the word "ain't" which again most certainly does exist in some speech but is much more common in song, and non-standard contractions such as "gonna". I'm positive that the reason you read "gonna" so often on the internet (a word that is very strange to many native English speakers) is because it's such a common "word" in songs where reflecting speech is more important than standard spelling.
     

    Yoeveryone

    New Member
    Polish
    Ok, after I posted that post i found info on "double negatives" - now i get it. When someone uses double negative, he actually means the opposite. Good example would be "I don't want nothing from you" meaning that you don't want nothing, because you want something. So double negative is used to mean the opposite of what is being spoken, i dont need sleep = clear meaning, i don't need no sleep = i do need sleep. Talkin of English Only forum - : o Couldn't find it.. perhaps i haven't searched properly.

    [...]
     
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    Yoeveryone

    New Member
    Polish
    Well.. I read on other forum, that double negative is meant to mean positive, because two negatives cancel each other out giving you a positive.. and it makes sense, i think. Because look - "i don't want nothing" - if you said you dont want anything, it would mean that you don't want anything from anyone, he doesn't have to give you anything, but if you don't want nothing, then don't want nothing = do want [ opposite] something[opposite].. I believe double negative is meant to be positive, furthermore that's what i've learned from researching that topic on the internet.. I am getting a bit confused, and by the way - i wouldn't say its gramatically wrong, as you get double negatives in maany famous songs..
     

    andryuu

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I can see your point, Yoeveryone, but crisstti's interpretations of the phrases you proposed would certainly be the most common interpretations.

    Both are grammatically incorrect, but used by uneducated people.
    I can't agree with this though. I don't think that the language people use should ever be an indication of how "educated" they are.
     

    crisstti

    Senior Member
    Chile, Spanish
    Well.. I read on other forum, that double negative is meant to mean positive, because two negatives cancel each other out giving you a positive.. and it makes sense, i think. Because look - "i don't want nothing" - if you said you dont want anything, it would mean that you don't want anything from anyone, he doesn't have to give you anything, but if you don't want nothing, then don't want nothing = do want [ opposite] something[opposite].. I believe double negative is meant to be positive, furthermore that's what i've learned from researching that topic on the internet.. I am getting a bit confused, and by the way - i wouldn't say its gramatically wrong, as you get double negatives in maany famous songs..
    Two negatives cancel each other out, that's why it's use is not grammatically correct. That doesn't mean you can't use them. Like you said, they're used in many famous songs. They are not meant to mean the opposite. What matters in the intent with which you say it.
     

    Mexico RV'er

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Both sentences are grammatically incorrect, and I must respectfully disagree with Andryuu. This type of error generally indicates that the person is uneducated, or at the least, poorly educated. There are some ungrammatical statements made in English that occur across the educational spectrum and seem to be accepted. The use of double negatives and the word "ain't" is not one of those. When I hear statements such as the examples given, I form an opinion about the educational level of the speaker. That does not mean the person is unintelligent. It simply means he has not learned better.
     

    Mexico RV'er

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I meant to comment on the double negative issue of one cancelling out the other. The Spanish language uses double negatives all the time and no one raises that issue; however, teachers of English grammar often use that argument as a reason for avoiding double negatives, so most school children grow up with that idea. Practically speaking, no one really believes the person meant the opposite of what he stated. The meaning is clear.
     

    crisstti

    Senior Member
    Chile, Spanish
    I meant to comment on the double negative issue of one cancelling out the other. The Spanish language uses double negatives all the time and no one raises that issue; however, teachers of English grammar often use that argument as a reason for avoiding double negatives, so most school children grow up with that idea. Practically speaking, no one really believes the person meant the opposite of what he stated. The meaning is clear.
    This.

    From what I understand, the use of the double negative is accepted in Spanish, and not considered grammatically incorrect.
     

    L'Inconnu

    Senior Member
    US
    English
    Well.. I read on other forum, that double negative is meant to mean positive, because two negatives cancel each other out giving you a positive.. and it makes sense, i think. Because look - "i don't want nothing" - if you said you dont want anything, it would mean that you don't want anything from anyone, he doesn't have to give you anything, but if you don't want nothing, then don't want nothing = do want [ opposite] something[opposite].. I believe double negative is meant to be positive, furthermore that's what i've learned from researching that topic on the internet.. I am getting a bit confused, and by the way - i wouldn't say its gramatically wrong, as you get double negatives in maany famous songs..
    The key word is MEANT. There is what the phrase means if anyone stopped to think about it, namely that a double-negative becomes a positive, and there is what someone who DIDN'T stop to think about it actually MEANT.

    Trust us on this one. We are the native speakers. He MEANT that he didn't want anything. Why not take the popular song from Pink Floyd, for example? Judging from the tone of the song, do you think they are saying that they DO want an education? Or, rather, do you think that the song is critical of abusive teaching practices? Aren't they saying that if education must be forced on us, then we don't need it?
     
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    Mate

    Senior Member
    Castellano - Argentina
    I can remember at least one more thread dealing with the same song: Leave them kids alone...

    Back then, a long standing British forum member said (and I quote):
    The children who sing on this record have a Cockney accent. Cockneys are working-class Londoners. Pink Floyd chose to adopt a Cockney character when they sang "leave them kids alone, which is Cockney dialect. It is non-standard, but as to "under-educated", I don't know ... someone has to clean the streets, drive the buses and put the drains in.
    (Emphasis added.)
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Those who use double negatives are just carrying on a long linguistic tradition, one which has become stigmatized in the past 250 years or so.
     

    duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    a) double negatives are not decent in English - but they are used for 'style' - songs, poems...

    b )The metaphor is the one used in formal logic, meaning two negatives render a positive [(-a) x (-a)= +a]
    I repeat: it's used in formal logic. A language is NOT a logic system (well, kinda, but it has its own logic, which may not be the same as the one in philosophy.

    c) double negatives are mandatory in Spanish.

    d) Again, there is a metaphor, except that in Spanish we use the sum, instead of the product. (-a) + (-a) = -2a, meaning a bigger negative than the one with only one negation. Therefore in Spanish, we can pile'em up, to make the sentence even stronger.
     

    Yoeveryone

    New Member
    Polish
    Ok guys, so basically "I don't need no education" means what it'd without the "no" ? It would mean that you don't want/need education? Double negatives is just a way people speak, like a slang, but it means what it would normally mean without the double negative, right?
     

    DearPrudence

    Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Ok guys, so basically "I don't need no education" means what it'd without the "no" ? It would mean that you don't want/need education? Double negatives is just a way people speak, like a slang, but it means what it would normally mean without the double negative, right?
    Yes. As mentioned in my post earlier:
    "I don't need no education" is not correct grammar but means
    = "I don't need any education"
    or "I neeed no education"
     

    Peggy-Lynn

    Senior Member
    English
    Haha, this is one of the difficulties of English!
    The double negative is grammatically incorrect and should, technically, result in a positive. For instance, "there wasn't no-one at the party" technically means "there was someone at the party", because a double negative in English = a positive. But, in spoken language the double negative is often used as a negative, as it would be in Spanish. So, "I don't want nothing to eat" = "I don't want anything to eat"; "We don't need no education" = "We don't need any education". In formal speech and in written language, the double negative is never used. If you see it written down, it is either an error on the part of the writer OR they are imitating some sort of regional accent. However, it shouldn't be assumed that someone who uses the double negative when speaking is uneducated as it is used frequently in certain areas. I grew up in a town near to Manchester and it was very common to hear people use the double negative as a negative, usually for emphasis.
    To a non-native speaker, my advice would be to never use the double negative as a negative as it is a grammatical error even if it is accepted in informal, spoken English, but just be aware that it exists.
     
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