Ningún, Ninguno, Ninguna
Despite the joys of living in sunny Spain we are still learning about being negative in Spanish. Last month we looked at ‘never’, ‘no-one and ‘nothing’, with a quick look at ‘neither … nor’ at the end. I’ve saved the fiddliest negative word for an article all on its own. The word is ‘ninguno’ which means ‘none’, ‘no’, ‘not any’ and sometimes ‘neither’ or ‘no-one’, depending on the sentence it appears in.
‘Ninguno’ is often used as an adjective and so behaves in an adjectival way, by which I mean that it changes its ending to agree with masculine and feminine (ninguno/ninguna). Like a few other adjectives, it is used in front of the noun it describes and also in common with some others, the word ‘ninguno’ is truncated to ‘ningún’ when placed in front of a masculine word. (Ningún libro, ninguna mujer – no book, no woman). This process of truncation is called ‘apócope’ you may be intrigued to know! Other words that do the same thing are “grande – gran” “bueno – buen” “malo – mal” “primero – primer” “tercero – tercer” and “uno – un”.
When we put the word ‘ninguno’ or ‘ninguna’ into standard sentences without any particular emphasis, we need the initial ‘no’ before the verb:
No tengo ningún libro. (I haven’t got any book)
No había ninguna mujer en el grupo (There wasn’t any woman in the group). We might also phrase this: “There wasn’t a single woman in the group”, although that is slightly ambiguous in English!
‘Ninguno’ is different from other adjectives in that is doesn’t have a plural form. This can be understood quite easily if we realize that you can’t have more than one ‘nothing’! However, it is possible to come across rare and somewhat dubious examples of ‘ningunos’/’ningunas’, so they might exist in theory, but in normal practical Spanish they will not be used.
The words ‘ninguno’ and ‘ninguna’ can also be used on their own. In this case they are pronouns rather than adjectives, although you don’t need to know that.
No tengo ninguno. (I haven’t got any, or I haven’t got a single one – of something masculine).
No me gusta ninguna. (I don’t like any one – of something feminine).
We can also use the word to mean ‘none’ or ‘neither’ in the following way: Ninguno de ellos es muy interesante. (None of them is very interesting). Ninguna de las dos es mi amiga. (Neither of the two is my friend).
As you can see ‘ninguno’ and ‘ninguna’ are words to be laid down and avoided if we are ‘word-for-word translation’ freaks. They just translate as too many different words in English, all of which are very similar in meaning.
There is a verb based on the word ‘ningún’ which is rather interesting. The verb is ‘ningunear’ which means ‘to ignore’, to treat someone as though they didn’t exist and also to look down on someone, or as one dictionary puts it ‘to treat someone like dirt’. That’s not a nice thing to do, but it is a very expressive verb I think. Having visited Google for some examples of sentences which include the word ‘ningunear’, they all seem to relate to either politicians or Real Madrid football trainers – por algo será.
To finish off this month, here are some more common uses of ‘ninguno’ in set expressions which I think are useful in themselves:
No es ninguna broma. (It’s no joke).
No lo doy ninguna importancia. (I don’t give it any importance. I don’t think it is at all important).
Bajo ningún concepto. (Under no circumstances).
De ninguna manera. (No way. Certainly not!)
No vas a ninguna parte. (You’re not going anywhere).
No lo veo en ninguna parte. (I can’t see it anywhere)
Sin dar ninguna explicación. (Without giving any explanation).
Well all I can say is that I am definitely not guilty of that final accusation. See you next month!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.