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What is the difference between "There will be users who doesn't buy something" and "There will be users who don't buy something"? Are they both grammatically correct?

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The former salutes, and begs, "may I have another?!" for being totally wrong. –  Uticensis Mar 2 '11 at 12:35
    
also - I think it should be "users who don't buy anything" rather than "something" –  JoseK Mar 2 '11 at 12:42
    
@JoseK: Don't push it. Something is just fine there. –  Robusto Mar 2 '11 at 13:28
    
@Robusto: Well, some do agree with me :) –  JoseK Mar 2 '11 at 17:27
    
@JoseK: You're right that the normal neutral uses 'anything' and that 'anything' could be used here. Robusto obviously sees a situation where 'something' can be used. –  Dan Apr 18 '11 at 20:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's users, plural. The verb has to agree. Users buy X. Users don't buy Y. Users who don't buy Z. Saying "users who doesn't buy something" would be ungrammatical.

Edit: I took the "something" in your example to be a placeholder for a product name. If that is not the case, i.e. if what you actually want to say is that there will be users who will buy nothing at all, then, as JoseK points out, you should be using "anything" rather than "something". That's because anything is a negative polarity item, while something is a positive one. So, to sum it up:

  • There will be users who don't buy X.
  • There will be users who don't buy anything.
  • There will be users who buy nothing.
  • * There will be users who doesn't buy something. (Ungrammatical.)
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How strong is the prohibition about using "something" here? I agree that anything can only be used negatively (in this context) but it seems to me that "something" is fine and maybe even desirable in some circumstances. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Mar 2 '11 at 15:15

The difference is singular vs. plural. It's the conjugation of "to do" that creates this distinction; "He does" vs. "They do":

He does -> He does not -> He doesn't -> Who doesn't

Implies that "who" is singular (a he or she). Appropriate answers to "Who doesn't?" would be "He does", "Sally does", or even "I do". A plural "we don't" or "they don't" would still be appropriate but it will mean that the asker didn't ask the right question.

They do -> They do not -> They don't -> Who don't

Implies that "who" is plural. The same applies here, but opposite. The obvious answer is "They don't". If you answer a singular, "He doesn't", it's actually a bit ambiguous whether he is the only one that doesn't, or if he's part of the group that doesn't.

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Doesn't is 3rd person singular. Don't is everything else, including 3rd person plural. So "there will be users who doesn't buy something" is wrong and should be "there will be users who don't buy something" or "there will be at least one user who doesn't buy something"

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