From Positive To Negative In Italian

Sometimes you need to learn to say “no,” but today you will learn how to say “not” in Italian. It can be very useful to learn how to change sentences from positive to negative. Italian grammar differs from English grammar in one important way regarding negatives. When you change a positive phrase into a negative one in Italian, non, the word for “not,” generally comes before the verb, not after. For example, “I’m not happy,” where the verb follows the verb “to be,” becomes Non sono contento. The negation comes before the verb sono (I am).

How to say “no problem”

Ironically, “problem” has a negative connotation, but right now we are talking about a different type of negative. In English, we often use “no problem” to mean “You’re welcome. How would you say “no problem” in Italian?

Non c’è problema (there is no problem).

Nessun problema (no problem [at all]).

If you put both of these phrases together you can come up with:

Non c’è nessunissimo problema. (There is absolutely no problem at all)!

Turn time-related phrases that are positive to negative

When time is short but there’s much to do!

Non c’è tempo (there isn’t time).


Non ho tempo (I don’t have time).


Il tempo non ce l’ho (I don’t have time for that).


Non c’è più tempo da perdere (there’s no more time to waste).


Non ho avuto il tempo per farmi i capelli (I didn’t have time to get my hair done).

Turning phrases about knowing that are positive to negative

As Plato said “All I know is that I know nothing,” but sometimes you need a little push to admit ignorance. The best way to get there is by at least knowing the words for it in Italian.

First phrase you need to know: Non lo so (I don’t know).

Another common phrase: Scusa, non lo sapevo (Sorry, I didn’t know).

Finally: Lo sanno tutti, e tu non lo sai?  (Everybody knows it, and you don’t?)

The verb is sapere (to know). For more about this useful verb, here are some lessons.

Turning phrases about remembering that are positive to negative

The word for “remember” in Italian can be very tricky. Most noteworthy, the reflexive form ricordarsi means to remember, while its regular form ricordare means “to remind.”

Adesso non mi ricordo se era proprio a forma di carciofo.
Right now, I can’t remember if it was exactly artichoke shaped.

carciofo artichoke
carciofo
artichoke

How to procrastinate or not do things:

Dovevo scrivere un articolo, ma non l’ho ancora fatto. (I was supposed to write an article but I haven’t done it yet).

As shown in the example, the pronoun lo (it) can be partially hidden in a contraction, as in l’ho (literally: “it I have”).

Non posso venire. Ho da fare. (I can’t come. I have things to do.)

Non works with modal verbs, too. In this case, the modal verb is potere (to be able to).

See and hear how native Italians say use “not” and other important words by going over to yabla.com and subscribing to the vast library of videos: original content of various kinds, TV shows, movies, documentaries and more. There are some free videos too, so you can see how it works. Speaking of “free,” check out the free Italian lessons available on Yabla.

Want to learn more about negatives in Italian? In addition to films, music, and documentaries, Yabla has some classroom lesson videos for learning Italian, too. Daniela is very popular with subscribers and happens to be teaching them about changing words and phrases from positive to negative right this moment. See Daniela’s teaching style in this free video.

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