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For example:

  1. No student goes to school today.
  2. No students go to school today.

When and why do I have to use singular and plural nouns following "No"?

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Are you asking why or when you should use one form over the other? –  zpletan May 7 '12 at 12:22
    
@zpletan: Yes. The question can be answered by explaining why and when each of them should be properly used. –  I am who I say I am May 7 '12 at 12:27
    
Well, the question as asked is apparently not what you want to know, then. You should probably make the question more explicit. –  John Lawler May 7 '12 at 13:43
    
To be honest, I can't think of any instances where the two aren't interchangeable. This is a distinction without a difference. –  Robusto May 7 '12 at 14:05
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would say that the difference runs thus (based on my usage):

  • A plural form would be used for a collective decision or to stress a collective situation. No students go to school today implies that school has been cancelled for all students; perhaps it was a snow day or merely a weekend.

  • A singular form would be used for a collection of independent decisions, most often as the basis for personal action, or to stress an individual choice or mandate. No student goes to school today implies that each student has made the independent choice not to go to school today; I would most often see why should I? tacked onto the end of it.

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How'd you arrive at that? –  Kris May 7 '12 at 12:35
    
@Kris: I second zpletan's interpretation, though I would caution that the difference between these two wordings is very slight, more a degree of shade than meaning. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 May 7 '12 at 12:43
    
I don't see any interpretation -- only a conclusion -- which is why ask. –  Kris May 7 '12 at 12:48
    
@Kris, I arrived at it by analyzing my own use of the two forms. –  zpletan May 7 '12 at 13:21
    
We are expected to state why and explain that with how. cf. Your comment at OP and his response. –  Kris May 7 '12 at 13:30
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