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In languages such as Spanish, words associated with a negative verb also take a negative form, e.g. No sé nada (Lit. I don’t know nothing). On the other hand, in English this use of double negatives is considered incorrect, and instead only the verb is negative, e.g. I don’t know anything. How does Esperanto handle this situation?

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    In the Slavic languages it's not just double, it' multiple negation that is the norm: link. I've heard someone say that Esperanto is similar to the Slavic languages but this aspect is certainly a difference. – Lyubomir Vasilev Aug 25 '16 at 19:31
  • As noted in the answers, Esperanto is like English in regard to the choice of single or multiple negation, but, FWIW, I wanted to mention that the placement of negation in single negation is itself an issue. I am given to understand that Zamenhof used the construction “ne devas” to mean “devas ne” – by way of influence of German. We have similar constructions in English, for example, “He doesn’t want to hear that.” really means “He wants to not hear that.” – Mike Jones Oct 27 '16 at 20:26
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In Esperanto we normally say "Mi scias nenion" for "I don't know anything". So like in standard English, we only use one negation, but we tend to put it into a correlative (table word) if possible, rather than using "ne".

However, it is also possible to use "ne" in combination with a non-negative correlative, i.e. to say "Mi ne scias ion ajn", which is more similar in structure to the English "I don't know anything"

If you use two negations, the overall meaning becomes positive again. For example, "Mi ne scias nenion" means "It's not the case that I know nothing", i.e. I do know something.

  • Both Marcos Cramer and Mutre gave helpful answers, but I am accepting this one because it gives a more direct explanation. – TreeHouse196 Aug 26 '16 at 3:55
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Double negatives are not used in Esperanto:

Diru nenion al iu ajn!

Don't say anything to anyone!

However, if you use two negative words, the meaning changes:

Diru nenion al neniu!

Don't say nothing to anyone! (= Say at least something to everyone)

However these kinds of sentences are very uncommon, and I'd rather assume the speaker made a mistake and intended the first meaning.

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