We can pick out
double negatives because they are
characterized by redundant no’s. For example, outside
of informal, colloquial language, we would probably never
use “I did not give nothing to no one.” But what happens
with a phrase like can’t hardly, in which there is
only one “no”-word? Can’t hardly
and other double negatives are often used
informally, but they should not appear in academic or
professional writing. Let's look at some examples
to discuss the problem, focusing on this week's phrase to
avoid: can't hardly.
Ex. Kristen told
me that she can't hardly wait for the semester to
hardly is actually a combination of two negative words.
The first one is obvious: cannot. The not
negates the ability to do something implied by can.
The second word is the adverb hardly. Hardly,
in one of its definitions, emphasizes something that is
To test for logic, substitute “certainly not” in brackets
for “hardly” and you get the following sentence.
told me that she [certainly not] cannot wait
for the semester to end. (Incorrect)
certainly not and cannot both express negation, it is
illogical to use both and create a double negative.
Re-substitute hardly. Hardly, as we see,
should be combined with positive verbs when a negation or
reversal is desired. The corrected sentence follows:
told me that she can hardly wait for the semester to
Here’s another certainly not
Ex. “The day
was certainly not an easy one.” (Correct)
day was hardly an easy one.” (Correct)
hardly, remember to use the positive verb (was),
excluding the not.