English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the affirmative sentence of this negative sentence?

He left no stone unturned.

I was thinking...

Every stone was turned by him.

It doesn't seem to be the possible answer.

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by MετάEd, JLG, tchrist, Kristina Lopez, RegDwigнt Feb 28 '13 at 20:11

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

He left all stones turned. – Jim Feb 28 '13 at 6:42
@Jim: Seems valid but the inner sense of the sentence is: He tried each and every way. Isn't it? – tvamsisai Feb 28 '13 at 6:46
Yes it does, but there are so many ways to say that that there can be no single "right" answer: He tried everything, He was completely thorough, He cast his gaze everywhere, He looked under every stone... So the only way to logically arrive at an affirmative to that particular sentence is to reuse as many of the original words as possible and simply turn the negative words into positives. no -> all, unturned -> turned – Jim Feb 28 '13 at 6:52
@Jim: Agree. You may answer it, like you have stated above. – tvamsisai Feb 28 '13 at 6:56

The sentence "He left no stone unturned" is abnormal because it's an idiom. That means that there's really no affirmative version unless there's an affirmative idiom that means the same thing. "He turned over all stones" is the closest you'll come using the same vocabulary, but it's not an idiom even though it's almost natural and idiomatic: it'd have to be ""He turned over all the stones" to be really normal.

The essence of the idiom is, as Jim says in his comment, "He tried everything" or "He did everything he could". There are many ways of saying this, but every option fits a specific context. The idiom "He left no stone unturned" is more general and is appropriate for many different contexts, as is usually the case with clichés.

Why do you want an affirmative for this negative-affirmative? Do you have a specific context?

share|improve this answer
This is in my high school assignment. No such context given. – tvamsisai Feb 28 '13 at 7:13
@tvamsisai: Then say it's either "He left every stone turned" (because it preserves the vocabulary & the sentence structure, but not the essence of the idiom), "He turned over every stone" (because it preserves the literal meaning of the words, but not the essence of the idiom), or "He tried everything" (because it preserves the essence of the idiom). This is either a failure of understanding on your teacher's part or your teacher's way of asking everyone in the class to think about the meaning of what they read & write, something few EFL students do when translating into English. – user21497 Feb 28 '13 at 7:24

If you consider an alternative expression.

He left no avenues unexplored.

then there is a simple inversion to create

He explored all avenues.

which sounds idiomatic as well as logical.

Arguing by analogy, we get

He turned all stones.

which "ought" to be correct even if it soumds odd.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.