For instance:

"I am joyful."

Is the opposite "I am miserable," or "I'm not miserable"?

The opposite of "I am" is "I'm not" or even "you aren't", and the opposite of "joyful" is "miserable". When writing opposites, do I write the opposite of each part of the sentence? Or only some parts? Obviously the two choices here have totally different meanings.

A longer example:

"I found myself asleep at the desk."

Is the opposite simply "I found myself awake at the desk"?

Or is it something convoluted like "You lost someone else awake apart from the standing station"?

Is it all interpretation? Or is there a rule for opposites?

  • Please define what you mean by opposite in the context of a statement.
    – Jim
    Dec 20, 2018 at 6:34
  • The terms "logical opposite" vs "polar opposite" are sometimes used for clarity. The logical opposite of anything is just not that thing. So the logical opposite of "I am joyful" is simply "I am not joyful." Note that this doesn't limit you to misery; content, indifferent, and slightly miffed would all also fit into the "logically opposite" bin from "joyful". The polar opposite, on the other hand, is where miserableness comes in.
    – 1006a
    Dec 20, 2018 at 6:45
  • One. Just use the opposite of one thing to get the opposite meaning of the sentence. See also English Language Learners Good Luck.
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2018 at 8:32
  • @1006a I'm afraid that's way over the top for a beginner.
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2018 at 8:33
  • 1
    We're really far afield of English here, so if you have more questions probably they should go in Chat. But basically, logical opposition is a way to think of the set of possibilities in the universe, those that fit the original statement and those that don't. Most of the examples you've given, of someone else being joyful, are irrelevant, because they are compatible with both the original statement being true and the original statement being false. That is, you could be joyful at the same time that he is joyful, or you could be sad/angry/blah (i.e. not joyful) while he is joyful. (Cont...)
    – 1006a
    Dec 21, 2018 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


'Opposites' (or antonyms) are words, not sentences (or clauses). We use opposites (like any words) to complete the sentence. The sentences with different opposites differ in meaning. So, to change the general meaning of the sentence (or clause) that's enough to use only one opposite. For example: I'm hungry. - l'm full up. This taxi-driver is very careful. - This taxi-driver is very careless. It's lucky that we got here early. - It's unlucky that we got here late.

When you use negative words (like not, nobody, never, etc.) we make the whole sentence negative. In this case we don't use opposites. For example: I'm not hungry. = I'm full up.

  • What about the other way(s) of conveying the opposite meaning? The OP has a point there. See my comment at OP.
    – Kris
    Dec 20, 2018 at 8:35

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