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I understand that any has negative connotations, as can be seen in the above link, but I need to say that there are no pages in a book. I've come up with the following sentence:

That book does not have any pages.

Is this a correct way to say that there are no pages in that book? It seems to be a double negation, with does not and any, so that would seem to mean that the book does have pages. Should I use a different word to any?

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How is any a negative? –  Robusto Dec 20 '12 at 15:18

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

That isn't double-negation, that's single negation. Double-negation would be this:

That book does not have no pages.

Sentences like the above are correct in many languages and are used in many non-standard forms of English, but are not correct in standard English.

You may be confused by the word any, which is a negative polarity item. The word any is not itself a negative, but it is required in place of no or some when the main verb is negative.

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You are right, 'any' confused me. I thought 'any' itself is negative and I cannot mix it with "doesn't/don't"... –  Semyazz Dec 20 '12 at 13:13
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Surely this would be correct in standard English if one means that the book has pages. –  Jez Dec 20 '12 at 13:19
    
@Jez It would be formally and logically correct, but its use would require strong vocal or typographic emphasis on no. It is not a natural way of asserting that a book has some pages. –  StoneyB Dec 20 '12 at 13:48
    
And? That doesn't mean it's "not correct". –  Jez Dec 20 '12 at 13:49
1  
@Jez There's correct and there's correct, even in Standard English. Correctness depends on register and discourse context. If you are denying a previously asserted lack of pages, it could be correct. In some contexts, as Justin ᚅᚔᚈᚄᚒᚔ points out, this sentence would mean the exact opposite of what you look for it to mean. In others it would be unnatural and unidiomatic, which are also components of correctness. –  StoneyB Dec 20 '12 at 16:25

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