I came across the word "budge" in a dictionary, and it said about this word: "Usually used in negative". Why does this specific word always come in negative form?

  • 3
    Usually is not the same as always. Dec 9, 2013 at 22:38
  • 1
    Because it is a Negative Polarity Item. This is a term applied to lexical items, fixed phrases, or syntactic construction types that demonstrate unusual behavior around negation. NPIs might be words or phrases that occur only in negative-polarity contexts (budge, in weeks) or have an idiomatic sense in such contexts (not too bright, drink a drop) or have a lexical affordance that only functions in such contexts (need/dare (not) reply); or a specific rule might be sensitive to negation, like Subject-Verb Inversion with Adverb Fronting in Never/*Ever/*Frequently have I seen such a thing. Dec 9, 2013 at 22:40
  • It's not negated in "Budge up!" (as when asking people on a bench seat to move closer together and make room for one more). Dec 9, 2013 at 22:45
  • Yes, I understand that usually is not the same as always, but I did some searching and all the results that I found were in negative forms, which made confused about this. That is why I asked this questions, thank you all for your comments and answers. Dec 9, 2013 at 23:35

1 Answer 1


Generally, you're trying to move something. If something just "budges" that means it moved so slightly as to be an insignificant change in its position. When trying to move something, it is often useful to indicate that it didn't budge and thus one did not even get close to the desired movement. But it is rarely useful to indicate that something budged because merely budging is so insignificant.

It's perhaps much the same reason we more often point out that we don't have even a drop of water than that we do. A drop is so close to none that having it is not worth pointing out.

  • 1
    Yeah, budge means 'move a minimal distance'. It's really a lexicalized variant of the "minimal direct object" NPI class, like drink a drop, eat a bit, give a shit, sleep a wink, etc. Dec 9, 2013 at 23:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.