Archive for November, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Differences between “No” and “Not”

Kristine Fielding teaches ESOL at Lone Star College in Houston, TX.

The other day, in the middle of a lesson on the past perfect tense, I asked if there were any questions. A Spanish-speaking student raised her hand and asked what the difference between “no” and “not” is. First, I thought this would only take a moment to answer, then I realized that since I am a native English speaker, I had never given this much thought. So I wrote the following two sentences on the board and hoped we could figure it out together:

“I have no dogs.”

“I don’t have any dogs.”

As a class, we talked about what the two sentences had in common and what was different. It finally came down to what word or words followed “no” or “not.”

“No” is often used before a noun or adjective + noun to signify a zero amount. (Of course, “no” can also be used as a negative answer to a yes/no question, but this wasn’t the student’s question.)

“Not” is used with the verb, placement depends on which verb is used in the sentence.

By taking a moment to demonstrate how I would figure out the answer, I showed my students that they already knew enough to do a little analysis to find their own answers.

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