Learn English – Can an affirmation be negative


  1. I'm angry.

  2. I'm not angry.

Are both (1) and (2) affirmations?

I ask because Merriam-Webster defines affirmation as 'a positive assertion', so this make me confused as to whether (2), which technically is a negative assertion, is an affirmation.

Best Answer

I would say that the answer relies on context. Lets take the following conversations as a case study.

"Hey Joe, how are you doing? You look like you've calmed down a lot since that fight."

"Yeah, I'm not angry anymore. Thanks for talking me down last night."

I would argue that in the example above "I'm not angry" is an affirmation due to the context of the statement. It affirms the previous statement as being true. Let us consider a counter example.

"Hey Joe, how are you doing? You look really angry."

"No, I'm not angry. I'm just feeling a little hungover."

In this example "I'm not angry" is not an affirmation, rather it negates the statement preceding it.

Whether or not a statement is affirmative relies on the context in which it is stated. There are cases where a negative statement can be either affirmative or negative in context.