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Saying No: An Overview of Portuguese Negation

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Are you the type of person who has trouble saying no? Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is saying no your way of life? Regardless of your answer, learning how to deny something, answer negatively, or simply say no in Portuguese is a super-important step in your language-learning journey.

After all, without the power of “no,” mix-ups and miscommunication could happen. Thankfully, you won’t find negation in Portuguese particularly difficult, as it has many similarities to negation in English. After learning just a few negative words and sentences, you’ll be prepared to deny anything. 

Don’t worry about sounding too negative after this article, though. We’ll look into ways to make a negative sentence sound polite, teach you the power of double negation in Portuguese for getting our point across, and even show you how to ask negative questions. To make sure everything is clear and understandable, we’ll give plenty of examples throughout.

A Little Girl Sitting on Outdoor Furniture with an Unhappy Look on Her Face

Não gostei. (“I didn’t like it.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Portuguese Table of Contents
  1. Negating a Statement
  2. Negation and Questions
  3. Other Negating Words
  4. Double and Triple Negatives
  5. Continue Learning More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

1. Negating a Statement

The first thing we’ll talk about is how to make a positive sentence negative in Portuguese. 

1 – The holy grail of negation: Não (“No”)

The first and most important part of negation in Portuguese is this little word: não (“no”). 

It’s a nasal word, which may sound a bit different to your ears. To make sure you get it, we suggest practicing its pronunciation with one of our vocabulary lists

Não is used in Portuguese exactly as “no” is used in English. It can be used to answer a question by itself, to construct negative sentences, or to ask negative questions. Throughout this article, you’ll see não pop up again and again, so keep an eye out for it.

2 – Making a positive sentence negative

This is one of the greatest things about negation in Portuguese: Just like in English, you can simply add the word não to a positive sentence. 

  • Nós temos uma televisão. (“We have a TV.”)
  • Nós não temos televisão. (“We don’t have a TV.”)
  • Ela é brasileira. (“She is Brazilian.”)
  • Ela não é brasileira. (“She is not Brazilian.”)

As you can see, não goes after the subject of the sentence but before the verb. Some sentences have implicit subjects, in which case we just put não before the verb.

  • Vou limpar a casa. (“I’ll clean the house.”)
  • Não vou limpar a casa. (“I will not clean the house.”)

A Woman in a Long-sleeved Yellow Shirt Crossing Her Arms and Thinking

Não sei, tenho que pensar. (“I don’t know, I have to think.”)


2. Negation and Questions

Now let’s examine how Portuguese negatives apply to asking and answering questions! 

1 – Giving a negative response to a question 

You can always answer with a simple não or, instead, make it more elaborate. Take a look at the different ways we can negatively answer the question, Você gosta de sopa? (“Do you like soup?”)

  • Não. (“No.”)
  • Eu não gosto de sopa. (“I don’t like soup.”)
  • Não, eu não gosto de sopa. (“No, I don’t like soup.”)

Sometimes, especially when being offered something, simply saying “no” might sound a bit rude, like in the example below.

  • Você quer um pedaço de bolo? (“Do you want a piece of cake?”)
  • Não. (“No.”)

To make it sound more polite, it’s a good idea to add “thank you” to your reply.

  • Você quer um pedaço de bolo? (“Do you want a piece of cake?”)
  • Não, obrigado. (“No, thank you.”) [masculine]

Another common way to soften the harshness of the word não is to downplay it a bit by saying instead não muito (“not much”).

  • Você gosta dessa banda? (“Do you like this band?”)
  • Não muito. (“Not much.”) 

This 3-minute video by PortuguesePod101 has many more examples of negative answers and sentences.

2 – Asking Negative Questions

You can also use negative words to ask the question itself. It’s very easy to transform a positive question into a negative question—or even to transform a positive statement into a negative question. 

Let’s take a look:

Positive statementPositive questionNegative question
Você gosta de pão. (“You like bread.”)Você gosta de pão? (“Do you like bread?”)Você não gosta de pão? (“Don’t you like bread?”)
Ela mora no Brasil. (“She lives in Brazil.”)Ela mora no Brasil? (“Does she live in Brazil?”)Ela não mora no Brasil? (“Doesn’t she live in Brazil?”)
Nós gastávamos muito dinheiro. (“We used to spend a lot of money.”)Nós gastávamos muito dinheiro? (“Did we used to spend a lot of money?”)Nós não gastávamos muito dinheiro? (“Didn’t we used to spend a lot of money?”)

You can also use other negating words to ask negative questions. We’ll look at those words soon, but let’s go ahead and take a look at some examples.  

  • Você nunca visitou a Inglaterra? (“You’ve never been to England?”) 
  • Você nem se despediu? (“You didn’t even say goodbye?”)

Notice that the words are placed in the same spot não would be in.

A Little Girl Making a Disgusting Face While Eating Peas

Você não gosta de ervilha? (“You don’t like peas?”)

3. Other Negating Words

Time to spice up your negation skills. There are many words you can use besides não, which also add more context to your sentences. 

1 – Nem (“Neither” / “Nor”)

Nem is a very popular negating word. 

  • Não como peixe nem carne. (“I don’t eat fish nor meat.”)
  • Ele ainda não sabe ler nem escrever. (“He still doesn’t know how to read nor write.”)
  • Nem meu pai e nem minha mãe falam inglês. (“Neither my father nor my mother speaks English.”)

Colloquially, nem is also used as “not,” replacing não. It is not uncommon to hear Brazilians saying:

  • Nem começa. (“Don’t even start.”)
  • Nem adianta. (“It’s no use.”) 

2 – Nunca and Jamais (“Never”)

Want to talk in absolutes? These are your go-to words! Note that nunca is much more commonly used than jamais, which has a stronger connotation.  

  • Ela nunca come depois das 20 horas. (“She never eats after 8 p.m.”)
  • Eu jamais viajarei de avião. (“I will never travel by plane.”)

Both words can also be used by themselves, when answering a question.

  • Você já voou de asa delta? (“Have you ever flown by hang gliding?”)
  • Nunca. (“Never.”)

You can even use jamais to make it clear you have never done something, and will also never do it in the future.

  • Você já voou de asa delta? (“Have you ever flown by hang gliding?”)
  • Jamais. (“Never.”) [meaning that you never have, never will]

Another common expression is nunca mais (“never again”).

  • Eu nunca mais quero te ver. (“I don’t want to see you ever again.”)
  • Viajei sozinha uma vez e foi horrível. Nunca mais! (“I traveled by myself once and it was horrible. Never again!”)
  • Ele nunca mais vai poder jogar futebol. (“He will never be able to play soccer again.”)

3 – Não mais (“Not anymore”)

Want to talk about something you don’t do anymore? Then use não mais, which can also include a verb in between both words. Take a look: 

  • Eu não nado mais. (“I don’t swim anymore.”)
  • Ela não come mais carne. (“She doesn’t eat meat anymore.”)
  • Não encontro mais minha caneta. (“I can’t find my pen anymore.”)
  • Você gosta de viajar de ônibus? (“Do you like traveling by bus?”)
  • Não mais. Antes, eu adorava, mas hoje acho desconfortável. (“Not anymore. I used to love it, but today I find it uncomfortable.”)

4 – More Negating Words

There are some more negative words you can use. Here are some examples of how to use them.

Ninguém (“Nobody”)Ninguém chegou ainda. (“Nobody arrived yet.”)
Nenhum (“None,” masculine)
Nenhuma (“None,” feminine)
Nenhum motorista está disponível. (“None of the drivers are available.”)
Nenhuma casa nesse bairro tem jardim. (“None of the houses in this neighborhood have a garden.”)
Nada (“Nothing”)Nada funciona nessa casa. (“Nothing works in this house.”)

The expression below is always paired with the word não. But don’t worry, we’ll go over double negatives soon. 

Lugar nenhum (“Anywhere” / “Nowhere”)
Nenhum lugar (“Anywhere” / “Nowhere”)
Não encontro a chave em lugar nenhum. (“I can’t find the key anywhere.”)
Não encontro a chave em nenhum lugar. (“I can’t find the key anywhere.”)

All of the negative words above can be used by themselves when it comes to answering questions, although it can sound a bit blunt. 

A: Alguém já chegou? (“Has anyone arrived?”)
B: Ninguém. (“Nobody.”)

A: Tem alguma camisa para me emprestar? (“Do you have a shirt to lend me?”)
B: Nenhuma. (“None.”)

A: Temos algo para comer? (“Do we have something to eat?”)
B: Nada. (“Nothing.”)

A: Aonde você vai? (“Where are you going?”)
B: Lugar nenhum. (“Nowhere.”)

A Confused Guy Scratching His Head

Não encontro minha carteira em lugar nenhum. (“I can’t find my wallet anywhere.”)

4. Double and Triple Negatives

Double negatives are very common in Portuguese. Luckily, they’re also very easy to use and understand! Simply put, double negatives are used to emphasize a negative statement. In other words, the negatives don’t cancel each other out.

You’ll see double negatives containing many of the negation words we covered previously. 

  • Eu não quero nada. (“I don’t want anything.”)
  • Ela não conhece ninguém. (“She doesn’t know anyone.”)
  • Você não trouxe nenhum livro? (“You didn’t bring any book?”)
  • Vocês nunca disseram nada. (“You never said anything.”) [plural]

There’s also such a thing as triple negatives. I know, I know, it’s getting a bit excessive. But it doesn’t really change things. Triple negatives continue to have a negative meaning, and they’re very common in spoken Portuguese.

If anything, triple negatives can convey a stronger negation.

  • Eu não quero nada, não. (“I don’t want anything.”)
  • Ela não conhece ninguém, não. (“She doesn’t know anyone.”)
  • Você não trouxe nenhum livro, não? (“You didn’t bring any book?”)
  • Você nunca disseram nada, não. (“You never said anything.”) [plural]

And to finish up, a curious little Portuguese phenomenon you might encounter are the expressions pois sim and pois não. In these cases, the word pois (“since” / “because”) works as a negation of the following word. Take a look:

  • Oi, você pode me ajudar rapidinho? (“Hi, can you help me really quick?”)
  • Pois não. (“Yes.” / “Certainly.”)

If you’re calling an office or going shopping in Brazil, you might hear pois não from the store or office employee. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean no! In this case, it’s exactly the opposite: they are politely telling you yes. 

The same thing might happen in some regions of Brazil when dealing with pois sim. It carries an ironic connotation, as if you were saying “Oh, sure,” while meaning exactly the opposite.

  • Pode me emprestar mais dinheiro hoje? (“Can you lend me more money today?”)
  • Pois sim! Até hoje você não me pagou o que me deve! (“No! You still haven’t paid me what you owe me!”)

Check out this lesson with double negative examples by PortuguesePod101!

A Girl Confused in Class

Eu não entendo nada não. (“I don’t understand anything.”)

5. Continue Learning More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

This article explained how to build negative sentences and questions in Portuguese, introduced you to the most useful negative words, and showed you how to make it sound polite. Remember to come back to this guide anytime you need to refresh your negation knowledge. 

Did you like this article? Did we miss any important or interesting negation words you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments below!

Now, don’t stop learning! There are more free Portuguese resources and a variety of vocabulary lists available on PortuguesePod101.com. Go ahead and choose your favorite tools to expand your learning opportunities.

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