Is it okay to use this idiom in its positive state like this: I talked some sense into him.? OR I succeeded in talking some sense into him.?

And, how do I exactly negate that idiom in that same form as above, can I say: I didn't talk some sense into him?

I don't want it to be like this: I talked some sense into him, to no avail.

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    If you want to negate it you have to decide which event you're negating: (1) your talking to him, or (2) him accepting the "sense" you "talked into him" (note the Conduit Metaphor here). That's one of the reasons to use didn't succeed -- it makes the result the target of negation. But in general it's not the case that one can "negate" any idiom or sentence, because there are normally internal structures that complicate things. Negation is an extremely complex subject. Jul 19, 2018 at 14:49
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    Oh, and one of the little complexities of negation is that it governs Negative Polarity Items like any. If you produce a negative sentence with some in the scope of a negative, most of the time (and certainly in this case) the some should be changed to any; i.e, I didn't succeed in talking any sense into him. Jul 19, 2018 at 14:55
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    @JohnLawler Thank you for the full explanation. I wanted it to be in a story, as after an event occurred, I want to sum it up or describe it from another character perspective; i.e, You succeed in talking some sense into him, and (in another event) You failed to talk sense into him.
    – Tasneem ZH
    Jul 19, 2018 at 14:58
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    I would phrase it as I was unable to talk any sense into him. Jul 19, 2018 at 16:25

3 Answers 3


Your first sentence starts off like a question, but ends without a question mark. Both examples are common English.

Your statement "I didn't talk some sense into him" is a bit awkward; it appears to indicate not having tried at all. In my experience, it's not a common construct.

I would say, "I failed to talk sense into him."

  • It has to be awkward, that's what made me ask here right away. Thank you for the valuable answer. And, about my first sentence, you are right. I will edit it.
    – Tasneem ZH
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:01

“I talked some crazy into him”? This is not a true idiom but a satirical pun of the conventional phrase.

Did you talk some sense into him?

No, I seem to have only talked more crazy into him. Good luck.


English uses modal verbs in the idiomatic sense you are seeking.

One possibility is:

I couldn't talk some sense into him.

This carries the sense that an attempt to talk sense was made and that the attempt failed.


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