Author: British Council | Published on 1 August 2022


Stage 1: Present examples

Write these sentences on the board with the words underlined as shown. Ask. “What do you notice about the underlined words in the sentences?”

  1. There are no eggs in the box.
  2. I could not understand the question. 
  3. None of the learners knew the answer.
  4. I have never been to London.
  5. Nobody wants to leave.
  6. There is nothing we can do about it.
  7. There is nowhere left to look.

To help learners:

Ask: “Are the words positive or negative?” Elicit – they are all negative words.

You can also ask questions like:

“In sentence 1 are there any eggs in the box?”

“In sentence 3 do any of the learners know the answer?”

“In sentence 4 has the person been to London?”

Stage 2: Take feedback

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they noticed in the examples. Some key points you might want to share with them include:

  • ‘no’ means ‘not any’ and comes before a noun
  • ‘not’ is an adverb used in a phrase to make it negative.
  • ‘none’ is a pronoun meaning ‘not any’ or ‘not one’.
  • ‘never’ is an adverb meaning ‘not at any time.’
  • ‘nobody’ is a pronoun meaning ‘no person at all.’
  • ‘nothing’ is a pronoun meaning ‘not anything.’
  • ‘nowhere’ is a pronoun meaning ‘no place.’

Stage 3: Use the grammar

a. Fill in the blanks

Write up some sentences but leave the negative word out. Say: “Complete the sentences with the correct negative word.” 

  1. There was _________ for us to go.
  2. My mother _________ learned English at school.
  3. The room was empty. There was _________ there.
  4. I’m sorry, but there’s _________ I can do to help.
  5. There was _________ water in the glass.
  6. I’ve _________ been here very long.
  7. ________ of my friends can swim.

b. Noughts and crosses

On the board put the following grid:

no never not
nobody none nowhere
nothing nobody never

Then quickly check the learners know the game ‘noughts and crosses’.

Divide the class into two teams.

Say: “Team A send someone to the board. That learner points to a word and makes a sentence using the word. If the sentence is correct, they put a X. Then team B send someone. They point to another word and make a sentence. If the sentence is correct, they put a 0. The team that gets three signs in a row wins the game.”

Note: It’s good to get the learners to write the sentence as well as say it, so that the incorrect sentences can be corrected. 


Elicit: How a teacher gets information from learners, e.g. asking questions, prompting.

Adverb: A part of speech which usually modifies a verb, or sometimes an adjective or another adverb, e.g. quickly, well, importantly

See also