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What is the difference between the usage of without and with no? For example, without sound and with no sound.

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I think the difference is the same there is between "it was no easy task persuading her," and " it was not an easy task persuading her." –  kiamlaluno Aug 29 '11 at 8:03
And what is the difference between "it was no easy task persuading her,"and " it was not an easy task persuading her."? –  Alexandra Aug 30 '11 at 5:36

4 Answers 4

There's no difference in meaning between "without xxx" and "with no xxx", but the former is far more common. For example, "walked with no haste" gets only 3 hits in Google Books, whereas "walked without haste" gets 5310 (an extreme example, but the preference is always there).

The other main difference in usage is we tend to avoid "with no xxx" with gerunds (verb +ing). (Note how "with no caring" virtually "flatlines" on this graph).

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With no is the common usage in American English. Americans say, "I want water with no ice" rather than without ice, though both mean the same thing.

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I would say that the "no x" formulation is a more emphatic expression of "without x". "Without" expresses the importance of x in a negative fashion, while the "no x" expresses it affirmatively...the former expresses (merely) that x should not be present, while the latter expresses the positive absence of the existence of x.

Overall, it's pretty subtle.

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Thanks a lot :) What do you mean by "the positive absence of the existence of x"? –  Alexandra Aug 30 '11 at 5:44
It's the difference between "he's not here" and "he's absent". –  Chris B. Behrens Aug 30 '11 at 15:05
Chris, are you a linguist? If yes, can you recommend me anything to read on this topic? –  Alexandra Sep 1 '11 at 4:40
Nope, just an enthusiast. I seem to remember something along these lines in "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker, though I can't recall where, precisely. –  Chris B. Behrens Sep 1 '11 at 19:25

Mayhap others will have other differences, but I only can point out one difference in usage.

In the following sentence:

He achieved this with no mean effort.

"Without" would have a different meaning. "With no" here has the meaning that the fellow put a lot of effort. "Without" couldn't have been used here.

That's the only difference I could point out.

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Interesting :) But don't you think that in this sentence "no mean" is an expression in which these two words go together and it doesn't mean a negation? –  Alexandra Aug 30 '11 at 5:46

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