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  • I have no house.
  • I don't have a house.

What's the difference between the phrases like the ones above?

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I cried because I had no shoes... until I met a man who had no style. –  MT_Head May 9 '12 at 18:12

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The two formations are essentially identical in literal meaning, but the phrasing may be chosen for dramatic emphasis. Probably the most famous example of this construction is the cliched father who's disowned his child: I have no son! It literally means the same thing as I don't have a son, but it's much more emphatic.

Edit: The have no form, since it's technically correct but not used as often, is sometimes used for humorous effect to imply that English is not the speaker's first language. The most famous example is probably the 1922 novelty song Yes! We have no bananas.

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Curiosity, does this at all have any relationship to the I have no XYZ form being kinda absolute and I don't have a XYZ being slightly more precise (e.g. a house vs houses in general)? –  tanantish May 8 '12 at 9:40
    
@tanantish: I have no clue. I'm trying to wrap my head around your question; I don't have an answer. But I think there are cases where you can use either format, and neither would be any more precise or emphatic. –  J.R. May 8 '12 at 10:45
    
Ah, in more detail - it's along the lines of say, something uncountable like milk. You can't really go 'I don't have a milk' and so must go with the 'I have no milk' form, which strongly attaches the concept of 'absolutely nothing' strongly to that form in my head. –  tanantish May 8 '12 at 11:23
    
@tanantish - You can't say I don't have a milk, but you CAN say I don't have any milk - and, in fact, that would be the more usual formulation. If you look in the fridge and it's empty, you would say I don't have any milk - but a young mother who's just found out she can't breast-feed might say I have no milk. Weird hypothetical, I know, but since you brought up milk... –  MT_Head May 8 '12 at 15:34

"No" in this context means zero.

"I have no house," means, "I have zero houses." "No," is therefore a measure of "quantity."

"Not," is just the usual negation. This is a "qualitative" statement.

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The answer is partly a trans-Atlantic difference, though less than it used to be.

Fifty years ago, when I was small, "don't have" was almost unheard in Britain, except in a habitual sense ("We don't have dances in our village hall any more"). Where Americans would often say "don't have", we would say "haven't", or "haven't got" or sometimes "have no".

When used as an alternative to "haven't a", "have no" is a little more emphatic; but in place of "haven't any" (eg "I've no money"), I would say it is completely normal for many UK speakers.

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1- I have no house/s = I don't have any house/s. 1.1- I know nobody = I don't know anybody. 1.2- I see nothing = I don't see anything. 1.3- I am going nowhere = I am not going anywhere.

2- The word "house" (in this context) being a countable noun i.e., it may take the singular and plural forms. Singular: a) I don't have a house = I have no house = I don't have any house. (Three possible negative sentences) Plural: a) I don't have any houses = I have no houses. (Only two possible negative sentences because the indefinite article A,AN can only be used along with SINGULAR countable nouns)

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