In English there are so many kinds of words, phrases, idioms, and sentences implying negation. It requires careful consideration to deal with them. Here we talk about partial negation.

When we refer to persons or things, three degrees of affirmation apply: full affirmative, partial affirmative and full negative. Examples of words in these three cases are given below:

  1. a. Full Affirmative

All, both, everyone, everybody, everything, everywhere, always, altogether, entirely (wholly);

  1. b. Partial Affirmative

Some, one or the other, someone, somebody, something, somewhere, sometimes, somewhat, in some degree;

  1. c. Full Negative

None, neither (nor), no one, nobody, nothing, nowhere, never, nowise, not at all;

In a simple sentence, the cases that the negative word “not” follows or precedes the words in these three categories show interesting differences:

1.1. Partial affirmative + not keeps the meaning partially affirmative:

Some students are not here.≈Some students are here.

1.2. Not + full negative makes the meaning partially affirmative:

Not many people have anywhere to live. =Most people have somewhere to live.


Not all imperatives have no subjects. =Some imperatives have subjects.


1.3. “Not for anything” makes the meaning partially negative or partially affirmative:

All these investigations are not done for nothing.


She would not have done so for nothing.


Oh, you must have done something to the child. She would not have cried like that for noting.


I’ll take it then. Not for noting. I’ll give you something in return.


1.4. Full affirmative + not / not + full affirmative makes the meaning partially affirmative or partially negative. Careless beginners are liable to make mistakes here.

*all… not… = not all = some

*everybody … not… = not everybody = somebody/some one/some people

*everything … not… = not everything = something/some things

*every… not… = not every = some

*both… not … = not both = one or the other

*always… not… = not always = sometimes

*everywhere… not… = not everywhere = somewhere/some places

*altogether… not… = not altogether = somewhat

In the case of, negative is applied only to a part of the persons or things mentioned in the subject. The word order of partial negation in English is quite different form that in Chinese, though a new tendency of placing the negative word before the subject prevails.

  1. 2. Examples:

2.1. All that glisters is not gold.

All is not gold that glitters.


All the chemical energy of fuel is not converted into heat.


2.2. A man of learning is not always a man of wisdom.


2.3. All men are not born to reign.


2.4. All was not ping pong during the Chinese Table Tennis Team’s four-day visit to New York.


2.5. The good and the beautiful do not always go together.


2.6. All the great truths are obvious truths. But all obvious truths are not great truths.