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Using the Spanish 'No'

It Is Often the Equivalent of 'No,' 'Not' or 'Non-'


A simple Spanish word like no can be deceptive. It looks and sounds like its English cognate, "no," and has a similar meaning. But there are some ways in which the Spanish no is used that will seem unfamiliar to English speakers.

Here, then, are some of the most common uses of no:

As a simple answer to a question: This usage is similar in both languages.

    Examples: — ¿Estás feliz? — No. (Are you happy? ¶ No.) — ¿Es estudiante de la sicología? — No, es estudiante del arte. (Is he a psychology student? ¶ No, he's an art student.)
As a question tag: No is very commonly attached to the end of a statement to turn it into a question, either rhetorically or seeking confirmation from the listener that the statement is true. It is usually the equivalent of "isn't that so?" or something similar.
    Examples: Estudias mucho, ¿no? (You study a lot, don't you?) Su esposa es inteligente, ¿no? (His wife is intelligent, isn't she?)
To negate a verb: In English, this is usually done using a negative auxiliary verb such as "don't," "won't" or "didn't."
    Examples: Él no comprende el libro. (He doesn't understand the book.) ¿Por qué no estudiabas? (Why didn't you study?)
As part of a double negative: As a general rule, if a Spanish verb is followed by a negative, it must also be preceded by no or another negative.
    Examples: No conoce a nadie. (He doesn't know anyone.) No fui a ninguna parte. (I didn't go anywhere.)
As the equivalent of "non-" before some nouns and adjectives: Many words use prefixes as a way of making them into the opposite; for example, the opposite of prudente (careful) is imprudente (careless). But some words are preceded by no instead.
    Creo en la no violencia. (I believe in nonviolence.) Humo pasivo puede matar a los no fumadores. (Secondhand smoke can kill nonsmokers.) El pólipo es no maligno. (The polyp is nonmalignant.)
As the equivalent of "not": Typically, no immediately precedes the word it negates.
    ¡No en nuestro nombre! (Not in our name!) El matrimonio con ella fue fugaz y no feliz. (His marriage with her was brief and not happy.) Pueden hacer el mismo, pero no rápidamente. (They can do the same thing, but not quickly.)
As a noun: This is often similar to "no" as a noun in English, although the Spanish word is a bit more flexibly used.
    Examples: El país ha dicho un no rotundo a la guerra. (The country has said a definite no to the war.) Hay una diferencia profunda entre el sí y el no. (There's a huge difference between yes and no.)

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