you don't mean nothing at all to me - double negative

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Julia76, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. Julia76 Senior Member


    There is a song by NELLY FURTADO (Say it right) that says the following in the chorus:

    Oh you don't mean nothing at all to me
    No you don't mean nothing at all to me
    But you got what it takes to set me free
    Oh you could mean everything to me

    Why is she saying don't and nothing in the same sentence? Doesn't that make the sentence positive? Is that what the song is supposed to express? Or rather, "you don't mean anything to me"?

    Thanks... :)
  2. jaysis Senior Member

    Columbus, Ohio
    USA, English
    She means "you don't mean anything at all to me". In modern slang, certain rules (such as double-negatives) are often purposefully broken so that instead of negating each other, they actually further emphasize how little he means to her.
  3. Julia76 Senior Member

    Thanks a lot for your explanation. Very clear, indeed!
  4. organist Senior Member

    English - England
    Jaysis has given you a good explanation but you should be aware that it is completely wrong to say:

    "You don't mean nothing to me"

    As you point out, the phrase, if it were correct in English, would make the sentiment positive.

    I think Jaysis's explanation is generous to the singer. In my experience of living in England and the USA, the people who say such things are not purposfully breaking grammatical rules but doing so because they don't know those rules.
  5. Julia76 Senior Member

    Interesting your explanation, Organist! Thanks a lot :)

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