I was having a conversation with my coworkers, and we just can't seem to agree on what is the grammatically correct way to say this.

In the context of the conversation, he was trying to express that he skipped his gym session in order to attend a club meeting.

I think the correct way to say this would be "I skipped gym for a reason." instead of "I didn't skip gym for no reason." For one, his statement actually means he "worked out" for "no reason", but you can hardly tell what it's saying with the double negatives in there.

Everyone else in the office seems to disagree with me though, and I think I'm going crazy. Is that actually proper English?

  • what was the co-worker actually meaning? – marcellothearcane Mar 29 '17 at 20:00
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    Both "I didn't skip gym for no reason" and "I skipped gym for a reason" mean the same thing - when used properly. Double negatives are normally used when one wants to emphasize something, precisely because they can easily be misunderstood by the inattentive listener. – Davo Mar 29 '17 at 20:00
  • "I didn't skip gym for nothing" which means that there was a reason why I skipped my gym session. – Mari-Lou A Mar 29 '17 at 20:01
  • The double negative could use some framework to make more sense of it: "You skipped gym for no reason?" "I didn't skip gym for no reason." Usually when you startle someone with "I didn't skip gym for no reason," you follow up with more detail: "I had my own reasons, don't worry." – Yosef Baskin Mar 29 '17 at 20:14
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    Note that ambiguity also attaches to the sentence "I didn't skip gym for any reason"—which may mean either "I didn't skip gym—and there was no reason sufficient to have made me skip it" or "I skipped gym—but not for a particular reason." In contrast, "I didn't skip gym for no reason" may mean either "I didn't skip gym —and there was no reason sufficient to have made me skip it—and I'm using a double negative to express this idea" or "I did skip gym—and I had one or more particular reasons for doing so." – Sven Yargs Mar 29 '17 at 20:40

The use of a double negative, in a way, makes me think that the speaker felt accused of skipping for no reason. Saying, "I didn't skip gym for no reason." emphasizes that more than, "I had a good reason for skipping gym." It seems like understandable idiomatic English to me.

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