"We will not cancel the game if the weather gets better."

Replacing "if" with "unless", you end up with either:

"We will cancel the game unless the weather gets better."


"We will not cancel the game unless the weather does not get better."

Is the latter sentence an absolute no-no? Or even a no-no-no!

  • 5
    It's confusing. That's a probly-not. And it's not colloquial English to say "will not" and "does not"; native speakers say "won't" and "doesn't". That makes the sentence a little more accessible, but not enough. Horn's rule is Simplex Negatio Negat; Duplex Negatio Affirmat; Triplex Negatio Confundit. Single negative negates; double negative affirms; triple negative confuses. Dec 5, 2013 at 17:27
  • 1
    Just to be pedantic no-no is a single negative.
    – hildred
    Dec 5, 2013 at 17:41
  • Your example sentence makes my head hurt, but I’m not sure exactly why. I constructed a parallel example: “I won’t buy another dictionary, unless I can’t find the one [that] I already own.” This one strikes me as less awkward, but I’m not sure why: it could be the contractions, it could be the punctuation before the “unless”, or it could be something intrinsic about the different words that I used. Dec 6, 2013 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


I think what makes the example sentence unpleasant is that, in addition to the three words in bold type, "cancel" also has a negative meaning. My preferred formulation of the intended meaning would be "The game will be played unless the weather stays bad."



My answer has to be at least 30 characters so I will elaborate. The last sentence is perfectly fine and logic, just a bit difficult to parse logically. It would make more sense to say "We will cancel the game if the weather doesn't get better." But you may want to assure someone that the game will not be cancelled (assuming the weather will get better), in which case it makes sense to say "We will not cancel the game unless the weather does not get better."

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