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Negation | Worked example

Watch David work through a negation question from the Praxis Core Writing test.

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Video transcript

- Scarcely no specimens of Wallace's giant bees, the largest known bees in the world, had been seen since the '80s, until some were spotted for sale on eBay in 2018. I see a number of opportunities to simplify this sentence for our analysis, even before we start knocking out multiple choice options. So we can take out these nonessential prepositional phrases like in the world, or since the '80s. And I'm also gonna get rid of for sale on eBay in 2018, 'cause all of those are important detail for the sentence, but for our purposes, trying to figure out whether or not this sentence works on a mechanical level, they're not necessary. So now with all of these things taken out, the sentence reads, "Scarcely no specimens of Wallace giant bees, "the largest known bees, "have been seen until some were spotted." Now that sentence isn't as interesting as it used to be, but I think it makes it a little bit easier. And you know what? We can take out until some were spotted as well. So now the sentence reads, "Scarcely no specimens of Wallace's giant bees, the largest known bees, had been seen." And I think that gives a more focused, smaller canvas to work with. But even so, with that in mind, it would be pretty easy to just skim over this sentence and say well, this seems like a candidate for no error. Scarcely no specimens of Wallace's giant bees, the largest known bees, had been seen. This comma is being used appropriately, to set off a comma-bounded descriptive aside. The word largest is a superlative adjective which is being used to describe the bees. And that's largest as opposed to larger, which would be the comparative form. And the larger known bees, that would be incorrect. But largest, that is correct, it is the most big bee, the biggest bee. And we use that E-S-T ending to denote the superlative, when something is the most. So the comma's fine, largest is fine. With that out of the way, we can also just cross off this descriptive aside, this comma-bounded descriptive aside. So now the sentence reads, "Scarcely no specimens of Wallace's giant bees had been seen." Scarcely no is the only thing about this sentence that gives me any pause at all. Wallace's, this is just a normal use of a possessive apostrophe, the name of the species. Wallace's giant bees is named for the scientist, presumably, that discovered the bees. So that's correct. So now we're between scarcely no and no error. And scarcely no is a kind of obscure form of the double negative. More obvious versions would be like saying, "There aren't no bees." In standard American english, that is not grammatical. But scarcely has a function similar to barely, or hardly. And ultimately, what those words all mean is no. And so it's inappropriate to follow them with the word no. This is an error ID question. Our responsibility is not to revise the sentence. But if we were to revise the sentence so that it worked, we would change no to something like any, scarcely any specimens of Wallace giant bees. So be cautious, because at first blush, again, this seems like an error-free sentence, but in fact, the answer is scarcely no. Double negatives like there aren't no or scarcely no aren't grammatical in standard American english. So you have to be on your guard for these subtler examples.