If I were to say:

I can't and I won't.

or something similar, is that a double negative?

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  • It is not unusual to use two negatives in a sentence. – Nigel J Jan 23 '18 at 16:46
  • 1
    It's not not OK. – davidlol Jan 23 '18 at 16:48
  • You have only one negative distributed over a compound verb. I can and I will. I can't and I won't. And no comma btw. – KarlG Jan 23 '18 at 16:48
  • The term "double negative" is ambiguous and misleading. The thing that is considered incorrect is better described by the term "negative concord". Using two negatives in a sentence is often okay. – sumelic Jan 25 '18 at 4:19
  • Possible duplicate of Isn’t this sentence a case of double negative? – sumelic Jan 25 '18 at 4:19

I'll use a popular phrase to be my example here:

Don't talk the talk, if you can't walk the walk.

As you can see, two negatives are used, but they do not cancel each other out. This is primarily due to the comma used.

In your example, a comma should also be present.

  • 2
    There is absolutely no need for a comma in the OP's example. The Oxford comma is only used for lists of 3 or more. – Nuclear Wang Jan 23 '18 at 16:47
  • DO NOT worry about that. There is a big difference in meaning between 'happy' and 'not unhappy'. Just double check your sentence means what you really want when using more than one negative. – Ross Murray Jan 23 '18 at 16:48
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    Actually, @NuclearWang, the OP's example should not have a comma whether they are using the Oxford comma style or not. For both styles, no comma is required with only two elements in a list. Once there is a third element in the list, the Oxford comma style requires two commas but the alternative style only one. – Ross Murray Jan 23 '18 at 16:53
  • I don't know that this would be an Oxford comma; in OP's post, if it's someone talking, it would represent an actual pause in speaking if a pause is intended. I think it's good with or without the comma, depending on what you're going for. I think that the example that @CelticTree used sounds and looks weird with the comma. – John Doe Jan 23 '18 at 16:57
  • @RossMurray You're just reiterating what I said... there is no place for a comma, and Oxford comma rules don't apply here. If it was a list of 3, it'd be open for debate, but it's not, and should be comma-less. – Nuclear Wang Jan 23 '18 at 16:59

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