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If I write "I have absolutely nothing to do with him and never will." is that clear and grammatically correct in meaning that I will never have anything to do with him? Could it be interpreted/construed as a sort of double negative in the future with "I will never have nothing to do with him" or "I will never have absolutely nothing to do with him"?

Also, I believe "nothing to do with" and "to do with" are considered idiomatic. But if you say someone has "nothing to do with Buddhism and never will" the message seems clear that person will never have anything to do with Buddhism, I think.

I'm also aware of something called a negative polarity item. If you use a phrase such as "nothing.. at all", the "at all" indicates scope for negation that ends with the clause it's located in. Does using "absolutely" also indicate a negative polarity item?

When using "never will" without further elaboration, does it automatically imply/generate the positive meaning of the negation before? In this case "have absolutely nothing to do with" and "and never will" would generate/imply "never will have anything to do with"? Does the morpheme "nothing" change to "anything"? This seems true for when you say "X has nothing to do with Y and never will" but I'm not sure. The "and" also suggest continuity in meaning.

I found usages online with similar structure but that don't include the word "absolutely": "she has a story that doesn't belong to my world, has nothing to do with it and never will" http://www.shortstoryproject.com/biography-of-a-dress/

"It is entirely possible that these islands are part of a land reclamation project for agricultural or other civilian purposes which has nothing to do with military applications and never will." http://thediplomat.com/2017/05/north-koreas-mysterious-new-islands/

Does the meaning change if you use "ever" instead of "never"? Person A has absolutely nothing to do with Person B and ever will.

  • 1
    A "double negative" can be grammatically correct. – Hot Licks May 22 '17 at 23:54
  • I find this question not uninteresting. How hungry are you? Well, I’m not not hungry... – Jim May 23 '17 at 2:15
  • I elaborated twice, and my comments were deleted. There is a difference between grammar and semantics. – Hot Licks May 23 '17 at 12:09
  • "Grammatical" doesn't refer to meaning, it refers to syntax. – Hot Licks May 23 '17 at 22:17
  • The original poster of this question wanted to let people know the following: "I (the original poster of this question) am deleting my account and will not revisit this page." – sumelic May 24 '17 at 3:33
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This is not a double negative; instead, you have an incorrectly-punctuated sentence. The sentence has two independent clauses, separated by a coordinating conjuction (and). The sentence contains two negatives because the two clauses have parallel construction.

By a process called conjunction reduction, or right-node raising (also addressed in this other question), the sentence's informal, conversational style abbreviates it, removing the second subject ("I"). A more complete rendition would be:

I have absolutely nothing to do with him, and [I] never will [have anything to do with him].

(The "nothing" becomes "anything" to avoid a true double negative).

Notice the comma after the word him. The complete sentence is stuffier than you might want you to speak, but adding the comma makes it all clear.

  • If there are two independent clauses rather than just one governing a compound verb, then what's the other subject? You normally do not separate a compound verb with a comma since there is no new subject and hence no new independent clause, although now and then this can help the reading. Furthermore, you seem to have swapped a nothing into an anything. Very odd. – tchrist May 23 '17 at 1:27
  • @tchrist I made an edit to make the second subject easier to spot, but if you object to the idea of conjunction reduction just address that.. – Spencer May 23 '17 at 1:44
  • It may mean "I have nothing to do with him and never will have to do with him", which sounds odd because "never will have anything to do with" is idiomatic and common. But: "This project has to do with civilian purposes. It does not have to do with military purposes and never will have to do with military purposes." So possibly: The OP's phrase sounds non-parallel but isn't. – Xanne May 23 '17 at 8:09
  • @Paul I'll try an answer based on my comment and we'll see if it gets shot down but I can't do it until later today. The answer Spencer has provided already says the phrase is grammatical and there's no double negative. – Xanne May 23 '17 at 23:05

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