I am wondering, which form is correct in this phrase?

Don't put your life on hold for anybody. OR - Don't put your life on hold for nobody.

The meaning I want to get is that - "You" should live your life and just don't "care" about anyone else/ You shouldn't wait for nobody (same problem - nobody/anybody?)

Please, help me..

2 Answers 2


It depends on the dialect you’re writing in. Don't put your life on hold for nobody is nonstandard. In Standard English it has to be Don't put your life on hold for anybody, because Standard English doesn't allow multiple negation.

  • 1
    It allows multiple negation, of various kinds, but what it doesn't normally allow is negative concord. Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 17:19

To remain strictly by the rules of Standard English, anybody.

However, the form of double-negative that uses nobody is very often found, to the extent that to some it would be the anybody form that sounds strange, or at least very formal.

If you aren't comfortable bending the rules yourself, then use anybody, but don't criticise those using nobody unless you're proof-reading something where formal language is required.

  • I see you're from Ireland, Jon. Would you say that the use of nobody as a substitute for anybody is much more prominent in American English? It may be the people I mix with but I rarely hear it over here.
    – Ste
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 12:31
  • @Ste I would say its very local, along with being partially class-based (double negatives generally are more common among the working class, though the middle class perhaps avoid them even more than the aristocracy, as is often the way with class signifiers). An interesting variation is that in spoken English particularly, the double-negative can be used to add emphasis, especially if the word itself is stressed, which can cause people who generally avoid it to use it. In all though, IME it's found in some parts of Britain, Ireland and North America, but not in others.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 12:37
  • Thanks, Jon; that all makes sense. "I ain't gettin' on no plane".
    – Ste
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 12:42
  • @Ste if I'm right in thinking you are quoting the character B A Baracus, then note that in AAVE it's normal to have "negative concord"; you negate all corresponding terms, making "I ain't getting on no plane" more correct than "I ain't getting a plane" as the no-double-negative rule of Standard English doesn't apply. It's an interesting lingual feature, though it is also one where emulation can sound like mocking if one isn't careful. In particular, people emulating can get the code-switching wrong and not realise when AAVE speakers would switch to Standard English.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 12:54
  • In Britain it is widely used, but you are far more likely to hear it in a football crowd, of from an army staff-sergeant, than in a university common room. The only reason I mention the army, is that I always remember the 1960s' soap, 'The Army Game'. There used to be a sergeant who used to pull a classic double, treble, or quadruple-negative, whilst affecting a posh intonation, and got a good laugh for it every time. 'I ain't not never done nuffink to nobody'.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 12:55

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