The conjunction "ni" in Spanish is used in different ways but they all convey a negative meaning.
Ni/Ni siquiera meaning not even
As the equivalent of not even in English, we can place either ni or ni siquiera in front of a clause, for example:
El pobre chico no tenía ni una manta para taparse.The poor guy didn't even have a blanket to cover himself.
El pobre chico no tenía ni siquiera una manta para taparse.The poor guy didn't even have a blanket to cover himself.
En casa de Rodrigo no usan internet ni para ayudar a buscar información.At Rodrigo's house they don't even use the internet to help search for information.
En casa de Rodrigo no usan internet ni siquiera para ayudar a buscar información.At Rodrigo's house they don't even use the internet to help search for information.
As you can see in all examples above there is a "no" in the first clause which will trigger the use of the second clause using "ni" or "ni siquiera". However, we can turn the sentence round and start with the ni/ni siquiera clause. If we do this, then we cannot negate the other clause.
Ni una manta para taparse tenía el pobre chico.Not even a blanket to cover himself did the poor guy have.
Ni siquiera para ayudar a buscar información usan internet en casa de Rodrigo.Not even to help search for information do they use the internet at Rodrigo's house.
Ni meaning No
We can also use "ni" at the beginning of a sentence to emphasise the negative meaning, basically a strong "no". It is usually used in exclamatory sentences.
¡Ni te imaginas lo que acabo de ver!You will not believe what I've just seen!
¡Ni se te ocurra llegar más tarde de las 12!Don't even think about arriving after 12!
¡Ni me dirigió la palabra ayer en la reunión del colegio!He didn't talk to me yesterday at the school meeting!
We could use the sentences above using ¡No...! instead of ¡Ni...!, but using ¡Ni...! emphasises the negation even more and also the exclamatory element of the action.
It's also very common to find this emphasising "ni" in front of a gerund, for example:
Ni soñando vuelvo a salir con Marcos. Ayer se comportó como un idiota.There's no way (lit: not even dreaming) I'm going out with Marcos again. Yesterday he behaved like an idiot.
Ni poniéndome de rodillas ante ella me aceptó la disculpa. No tiene corazón...Even though I kneeled in front of her (lit: not even kneeling) she wouldn't accept my apology. She has no heart...
Nunca la podría abandonar ni queriendo. I could never leave her (even) if I tried.
Sometimes used with "aun" + gerund with the same meaning:
Nunca la podría abandonar ni aun queriendo.I couldn't leave her even if I tried.
Ni aun poniéndome de rodillas ante ella me aceptó la disculpa. Even though I kneeled in front of her she wouldn't accept my apology.
With the same effect as when used with a gerund, "ni" is often used followed by "aunque":
Ni aunque te pongas de rodillas te perdonaré.I won't forgive you even if you go on your knees.
Yo no haría ese trabajo ni aunque me pagaran el doble.I wouldn't do that job even if they paid me double.
Some set expressions also use "ni" in front of an infinitive. This emphasises the negation:
- ¿Quieres que llame yo a tus padres? - ¡Ni hablar!- Do you want me to call your parents? - No way!
- ¿Me das un beso? - ¡Ni soñarlo!- Would you give me a kiss? - No way!
See also Using ni... ni... for neither... nor... in Spanish
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