I was trying to understand indefinite pronouns from this English Grammar Guide site.

Everything was going smoothly until I bumped into this paragraph.


In affirmative statements, indefinite pronouns with some are used to describe indefinite quantities, those with every are used to describe completeness, and those with no are used to describe absence.  Often indefinite pronouns with no are used in affirmative statements with negative meanings, but these statements don't use not.

I didn't understand the bold part. Specifically, I couldn't grasp the concept behind "affirmative statement with negative meaning".

I am beginner with English grammar, so it would be great if you explain it with clear and simple examples.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. What's the context of this question? Do you have any examples? Please be as specific as possible.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:34
  • 3
    In response to being told by a prof that in no case in English would two positives make a negative, one student muttered "Yeah, right."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:40
  • I'd just call that sarcasm or irony.
    – Liesmith
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:53
  • Look at the examples on the page you linked to: “No one is sleeping in my bed.”, “There is nothing to eat.”, and “There is nowhere as beautiful as Paris.” These are affirmative sentences in the sense that the verb isn’t negated, but they are expressing negative meanings: “There is not anybody [sleeping] in my bed.”, “There isn’t anything to eat.”, etc. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 6:41
  • It just shows that the author of your grammar book doesn't understand English grammar well enough to explain it. Negation has a distinct effect on quantifiers. And there is no such thing as an "affirmative sentence". Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 2:14

2 Answers 2


The statement I'm about to use is an example, not an opinion.

Consider the following statement:

You are stupid.

Grammatically, this is entirely positive and affirmative. The copula directly links you to a simple, positive (meaning neither comparative nor superlative) adjective. It expresses your (hypothetically) actual state of being. It contains nothing resembling a negation. As far as grammar is concerned, the statement is no different than:

You are happy.


You are smart.


Of these three grammatically positive statements, is there perhaps one which you wish would not be applied to you?


The examples you seek are on the page you linked to:

  • No one is sleeping in my bed.
  • There is nothing to eat.
  • There is nowhere as beautiful as Paris.

These are affirmative sentences in the sense that the verb isn’t negated, but they are expressing negative meanings:

  • There is not anybody [sleeping] in my bed.
  • There isn’t anything to eat.
  • etc.

I find this concept of “negative meaning” somewhat elusive – see Does “positive” mean good and “negative” bad?.   The Merriam-Webster definition of “negative” includes “marked by absence, withholding, or removal of something positive” and “lacking positive qualities”, which are broad and (IMHO) subjective – especially since the definition of “positive” (“good or useful”) is similarly broad and subjective.  Consider the following sentences:

  1. The balloon is red.
  2. The car is fast.
  3. The balloon is burst (or has burst).
  4. The car is totaled (i.e., is totally destroyed or has been totally destroyed).
  5. The fridge is empty.
  6. The apartment is vacant.
  7. I just got fired.
  8. My boss is mean.

Which of these have negative meanings?  Probably not #1 and #2.  But #5 is very close in meaning to “There is nothing to eat.” (“There isn’t anything to eat.”) and #6 is analogous to “No one is in my bed.” (There is not anybody in my bed.”), both of which reflect an absence of something positive.  Ditto for #7 – unless I hate[d] my job and don’t need the wages.  All of them seem to boil down to a matter of opinion.  The Three Bears might consider “No one is sleeping in my bed.” to be a good thing. :-)

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