1

Please tell me if this sentence is correct or incorrect. If incorrect, please say why.

I wouldn't like to not have children.

Thank you.

  • There are people who would object to this on the ground that it has what they call a "split infinitive" (not comes between to and have). Thankfully there are not so many of these daft people around any more, but you might still encounter somebody who complains for this reason. – Colin Fine Nov 24 '13 at 21:56
3

It's correct; it has a doubling of negatives, but one that all but the most disapproving of double negatives would allow.

It's logically equivalent to "I would like to have children", but differs in that it is reacting to the idea of not having children rather than to the idea of having them. While those amount to the same thing logically, ones emotional response to each idea could be of different degree or contradictory (it is possible for one to say they wouldn't like to have children, but also wouldn't like to not have them).

For this reason, the double-negative expresses something than the negative-free equivalent, and most would allow it.

  • I cannot see how anyone even within shooting distance of their right mind could possibly object to negating a negation (for effect or with a purpose), when the two negations clearly do cancel each other out. Double negatives where one is semantically void I can understand some being uncomfortable with … but anyone who thinks sentences like this one shouldn’t be allowed, should not be allowed to open their mouth. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 24 '13 at 20:23
  • @JanusBahsJacquet it happens when people learn the letter of the rules, and not the reason; the symptom of schoolboy rote learning without understanding. – Jon Hanna Nov 24 '13 at 20:36
  • I'd hazard that 'I wouldn't like to not have ...' is less common than 'I wouldn't like not to have ...' though. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 24 '13 at 21:32
  • This is the classical Duplex Negatio Confirmat, where the negatives "cancel one another out" because would like is a predicate that's transparent to negation. Try it with a predicate like would claim that's opaque to it. I wouldn't claim to not have children does not mean that the speaker would claim to have children. – John Lawler Nov 24 '13 at 22:23
0

There are two possible starting points for the OP's sentence:

I have children. And I would not like it if I didn't have children.

I don't have children now. But I want children in the future and would not like it if I couldn't have them.

In both cases the sentiment can be expressed accurately and correctly by the words:

I wouldn't like to not have children.

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