Some may think this question is a duplicate of this How does one say "It's not nothing."

but I feel the question was not answered fully, or at least I didn't learn very much from the answers.. There are several instances in English when using a double negative makes sense, adds emphasis, makes a clear point. Examples..

Although I read through the aforementioned question, I didn't not learn anything.

I simply rewrote a clause from above, yet now it has more meaning to it. Reading the question in the link did teach me that others have asked themselves this same question before. But, because of my use of a double negative it gives off the idea that I didn't expect to learn anything; the idea that I barely learned anything at all.

Q: Did posting your question on stackexchange work? A: It didn't not work!

I am at a total loss now on how to translate that. You can't just add no all willy nilly, can you?

Q: ¿Te sirvió poner tu pregunta en stackexchange? A: No no me sirvió.

That makes no sense to me, above.

No me no sirvió.

This one makes more sense to me, but sounds really unnatural. What is the correct way to communicate the irony in such sentences with double negatives?

  • One thing you must accept when translating a language is that you cannot make perfect translations of everything. Sometimes you will lose the irony. Sometimes it will be better to look for irony natural in the language you are translating to.
    – Flamma
    Jun 5 '14 at 18:07
  • @Flimzy It is not a duplicate. Pay attention! This is a more general question. The answers to the other question don't answer this one.
    – angus
    Jun 6 '14 at 8:37
  • @angus: I disagree; I think the other answers apply quite reasonably here. I think your answer is also good, and expands upon the previous answers, but would also apply equally well to the other question.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 6 '14 at 17:28
  • @angus: But feel free to vote to re-open this one.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 6 '14 at 17:41
  • @Flimzy I don't even know how to do that. Anyway, if you think you know better, there's nothing we can do. Might makes right, so let's leave it.
    – angus
    Jun 6 '14 at 23:08

Right now I can think of three usual ways to express English "double-negatives" in the sense you mean:

  • Wrap the sentence inside another and negate that: "No es cierto que no me haya servido", "no se puede decir que no haya aprendido nada", etc... Or simply, "No es que ...".
  • Use the expression "no dejar de": "No dejó de servirme", "no dejé de aprender algo".
  • Find a way to express the first negation without using negative particles, and negate that: "no me resultó inútil", "no quedé sin aprender algo".

Another example: "Tiene sentido" ("makes sense") → "No tiene sentido" →

  • "No se puede decir que no tenga sentido".
  • "No deja de tener sentido".
  • "No carece de sentido".
  • Quite complete answer. I would add that in oral language it would be normal to just put "no" at the end of the negative sentence after a short pause :"no me sirvió, no", "nada, no", etc.
    – julodnik
    Apr 25 '19 at 12:58

A possibility in this case is using para nada, which would be like at all.

Q: ¿Te sirvió poner tu pregunta en stackexchange? A: No, no me sirvió para nada.

Other than that you should post more examples. In any case you cannot write two no in a sentence following each other. I do not want to say irony is untranslatable in this case, but I do not see any means of conveying the meaning without writing something else

  • 1
    It is also usual no me sirvió de nada.
    – rodrigo
    Jun 3 '14 at 8:06
  • 1
    This does not answer the question, which is asking for just the opposite.
    – Gorpik
    Jun 3 '14 at 14:39

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