David Recine

Magoosh Comics: Polar Words

Today I’m going to talk about words that are “polar.” And no, I don’t mean words that describe the North or South Poles. I’m talking about words that can usually only be used in negative statements alongside words such as “not”. Language experts would say that these words are “negative polar.” I’m also talking about words that can only be used in positive statements without negative words like “not.” Linguists called these words “positive polar.”

I’ve already written about a number of polar words: “any,” “some,” and words with “any” and “some” as root words. “Any” is negative polar and can be used in negative statements. “Some” is positive polar. There are many other polar words and phrases. The comic strip below reviews the use of “any” and “some,” and introduces several other common polar words.


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There are exceptions to the rules for using polar words, of course. All of the new words in that comic strip follow the same exceptions as “any” and “some.”

When writing or speaking on the TOEFL, it’s important to know how to use these common words correctly. Incorrect sentences such as “It ever snows in the tropics,” or “There are not a few of them” will seem strange to TOEFL scorers. These mistakes make your language seem unnatural. They can even make your meaning unclear. So remember these common words and make sure your English is correctly polar.

Want more TOEFL comics? Check out our 50 page TOEFL Comics eBook!


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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