Teaching Students about Double Negatives

Teaching Students about Double Negatives using Song Lyrics

Are you looking for a fun way to teach grammar? Check out this idea that uses song lyrics. Double negatives, commonly found in song lyrics and informal speech, often lead to confusion and poor grammar. However, by incorporating students’ love for music into the learning process, you can effectively teach the rules surrounding double negatives.

In this blog post, I will show how song lyrics are a powerful tool for teaching double negative rules, providing examples, a helpful handout, and engaging practice activities to reinforce this important grammatical concept.

Be sure to get the handout. It includes the printables you need to complete some of the activities.

Teaching Double Negatives using Song Lyrics

Teaching Double Negative Rules:

Teaching Double Negatives using Song Lyrics

Double negatives consist of two negative words or phrases used in the same sentence. While this construction may be prevalent in music and casual conversation, it results in a positive meaning that can be misleading. To ensure clarity and effective communication, students should learn the following rules:

  1. Use only one negative word or phrase in a sentence.
  2. Use positive words to convey a positive meaning. For instance, say “I don’t disagree” instead of “I agree.”
  3. Substitute negative words like “never,” “no one,” or “nothing” with “not.” For example, say “I ain’t got nothing” instead of “I don’t have anything.”

Double Negative Charts:

Use the charts in the handout to help students visualize these rules. One chart includes a comprehensive list of negative words, adverbs, and verbs, such as “no,” “never,” “doesn’t,” and “can’t.” This chart will serve as a valuable reference throughout the learning process.

Analyzing Song Lyrics:

Teaching Double Negatives using Song Lyrics

Let’s examine a selection of popular song lyrics. Begin by providing students with the handout containing a variety of song lyrics, including:

  1. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye
  2. “Oh! Darling” by The Beatles
  3. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
  4. “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley
  5. “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd
  6. “Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna
  7. “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant
  8. “Somebody to Love” by Queen

Encourage students to identify the instances of double negatives in each song and explain how they transform the meaning of the lyrics. This activity will enhance their understanding of the rules and the impact double negatives can have on communication.

The Significance of Double Negatives in Song Lyrics:

Teaching Double Negatives using Song Lyrics

While these structures are often used intentionally in song lyrics, it is crucial to understand their purpose. Double negatives often serve artistic or poetic purposes, enhancing the song’s message, rhythm, or tone. Let’s delve into a few examples:

  1. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye: These structures in this song create emphasis and intensity, reinforcing the idea that nothing can obstruct love and perseverance.
  2. “Oh! Darling” by The Beatles: Similiar structures intensify the emotions and urgency in this song, emphasizing the singer’s desperation and longing for their lover.
  3. “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.: The playful and humorous nature of the song is enhanced by the intentional use this structure, reflecting the lighthearted tone of the popular 1984 movie it accompanies.

Practice Exercise: Identifying and Correcting Double Negatives

Provide students with the practice exercise. Students rewrite song lyrics correcting double negative mistakes.


Teachers can effectively teach double negative rules by capitalizing on students’ love for music. Incorporating song lyrics into the learning process engages students, allowing them to identify and correct double negatives while appreciating music’s artistic and expressive elements. Through practice and understanding, upper elementary students can improve their grammar skills, ensuring their messages are clear, coherent, and easily understood in written and spoken contexts.



Gay Miller

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    • Erika on January 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I am thoroughly enjoying your blog and website. I was recently moved to a 4th and 5th year class, where I teach montessori education. It is a public school, so I must to still be mindful of state standards while trying to keep the integrity of the program. I am having a difficult time finding quality practice for ela reading literacy. What resource do you use? I also love your hanging wall charts. How do you know which book to put things in if you are hanging multiple charts?

    1. Hi Erika,

      Thank you so much for taking a look at my blog. It is fairly new. I just starting blogging about 6 months ago. Unfortunately, I have not done a good job organizing my wall charts. I usually just grab one that I no longer need the chart to show and make something new. I teach reading completely from units I create. For English, I like Easy Grammar and Capitalization and Punctuation.

    • Carolyn on December 9, 2019 at 9:56 am

    I was wondering, is this meant to have a freebie activity? Ok, sorry, just found my answer to that one. It was scrunched up on the side of my browser.

    I would also like to take the opportunity to ask you if you do any listening comprehension activities with animated shorts, songs or similar.

    Thank you and thank you for all your tips and ideas!

    1. I have a number of blog post series using different types of media. Here are a few:

      Teaching Text Structures with Songs

      Teaching Persuasive Techniques with Commercials

      Teaching Types of Conflict with Movie Trailers

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