Takhle věta mi příjde dost hrozná i v češtině. Jsem uvažovala, jestli je ta kniha o ničem, nebo jestli je dobrá :-) Pochopila jsem, že ta kniha je vcelku dobrá... A jak by byl anglický překlad věty: "Jeho kniha je o ničem." His book is about nothing? Ale to by mi tam zas vycházelo, že by mohla být i negace ve slovesu a bylo by i: His book is not about anything. Teď v tom mám šílený zmatek...
But the proposed English translation is "not about anything". It seems to me that it is not equal to "about something". I think "not about anything" is equal to "about nothing". For example the similar construction: "I have nothing to eat" = "I do not have anything to eat".
I thaught about double negation (it is familiar to me from Russian). It does not work like math here (as in English). Becuase it would be positive then. And it is used because we cannot say positive sentences with words like "nikoho", "nikdy", "ničem" etc. And they need to be accompanied by additional negation. So instead of "tam je nikdo" it should be "tam není nikoho". Instead of "to bylo nikdy" should be "to nebylo nikdy". And instead of "je o ničem" should be "není o ničem".
I've heard from a native Czech speaker -- who may have been only partly joking -- that if there's one "negative" in a sentence, you just go on "negativing" as much as you can, to make the point!
As I understand it, the negatives don't cancel each other out as in English. Instead, they support one another. Very tricky to get used to, coming from English...
This is an awkward one as an English speaker. A direct translation from mousing over the hints provides "His book isn't about nothing", which would directly mean "His book is about something".
The only difference between the solution "His book isn't about anything" and the mouseover translation "His book isn't about nothing" are the words anything/nothing, which are complete opposites. This is confusing.
The issue when comparing to Russian is because we do no use verb "být" in such sentences. That is why double negation here looks somewhat confusing at the first sight. But this works here as well as with other verbs. If you substitute another verb here, it should probably be easier to understand: "Его книга не содержит ничего".