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What's the difference between "I see nothing" and "I don't see anything"? In what condition each of them is more appropriate?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There’s no difference in meaning.

Not using an auxiliary verb is

  • more poetic,
  • or more archaic,
  • and can be more emphatic.

At the Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson may have said [of the signal to retreat, which he could not discern by raising a telescope to his blind eye] “I really do not see the signal.” This has come down to us in popular folklore as “I see no signal”: more poetic, certainly, and possibly more emphatic than even using really.

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