Can someone explain the grammar of "Lo necesito más que nada," "Te conozco mejor que nadie," "Es la mejor política nunca pensada en este país"? Why are negative words used here?

  • Apart from word order the English "There is nothing I need more than that", "There is nobody I know better than you." are similar. I am afraid I do not know the name of the grammatical construct which is why this is just a comment not an answer.
    – mdewey
    Aug 8, 2021 at 13:11
  • You are aware of the negative question in English, aren't you? Aug 8, 2021 at 23:00
  • @WalterMitty No, I'm not sure what you're referring to.
    – Cuius
    Aug 9, 2021 at 0:25
  • 1
    @mdewey I just realized (and corrected my answer accordingly) that your translation "There is nobody I know better than you" corresponds to "Te conozco mejor que A nadie", where "nadie" is object. Without "a", "nadie" is the subject of the comparative clause: "There is nobody who knows you better than I do".
    – Gustavson
    Aug 9, 2021 at 0:54
  • talkenglish.com/speaking/…. Aug 10, 2021 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


According to NGLE (2009 edition, item 48.6o), comparative quantifiers of inequality are strong negative polarity inducers:

  • Javier, más rumboso que nunca, pidió cuatro whiskies (Vargas Llosa, Tía).

  • Nadie como él puede aborrecer la soledad de los unos y de los otros, la suya menos que la de ninguno (Díez, Expediente).

  • Eso es mejor que nada (Ribera, Sangre).

  • [...] entonces quizá peor que en ningún otro instante de la vida (Tusquets, Mar).

Curiously, in English we use neutral pronouns and adverbs in this case:

  • Lo necesito más que nada (I need it more than anything else).

  • Te conozco mejor que nadie (I know you better than anybody else).

  • Es la mejor política nunca pensada en este país (It's the best policy ever conceived in this country).

However, as @mdewey said in a comment above, in subject or initial position the focus makes those words negative:

  • There is nothing I need more.

  • There is nobody who knows you better than I do.

  • Never has a better policy been conceived in this country.

  • I found the corresponding section in the Manual de la NGLE, which helped me a lot. Thanks for the additional explanation.
    – Cuius
    Aug 9, 2021 at 0:27

I found an answer at Nueva gramática de la lengua española: Manual, 48.5.2d: "En cuanto que denotan la exclusión de individuos o grados, constituyen inductores negativos fuertes los cuantificadores comparativos de desigualdad [y] los superlativos."

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