English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

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

As an ESL I'm not sure if I can use the following sentences:

You can take no other directions.

I'm using it on giving indications to a foreigner.

Should I use instead:

You can't take other directions.

Which one do you think it is the most natural/idiomatic?

share|improve this question
What is the context? – shachna Jun 27 '12 at 13:13
What context are these sentences to be interpreted in? are they to be an order? – Rory Alsop Jun 27 '12 at 13:14
Also, you can say 'You can't take no other directions' which is an actual counter prescribed 'double negative' (as opposed to a logical double negative making a positive). But you don't want to use it as it will mark you as a foreigner trying to speak way too vernacular. I'm just saying. – Mitch Jun 27 '12 at 13:58
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Both the sentences are quite similar. You see when we say,

You can take no other directions.

It is quite similar to

You can't take any other directions.

the above two cases are like showing someone it is the only direction available.

But when we say,

You can't take other directions.

It seems a little different then above two statements. It Expresses kind of an order, although it may sound differently depending upon the context in which it is used.

share|improve this answer
Thanks a lot :D – utxeee Jun 27 '12 at 14:50
I have a problem with this. I think it's more idiomatic to say "You can take no other direction" or "You can't take any other direction" (singular) if it is the only direction available. – Andrew Leach Jun 27 '12 at 15:00
"You can't take other directions" has the same meaning as the other two examples, and is no more imperative than them. However, I'd say cannot rather than can't in that sentence. – jwpat7 Jun 27 '12 at 15:47

The second is more common, but both are fine.

It's possible that it context they would mean different things, but taken in isolation they sound like they'd have the same meaning.

share|improve this answer

I completely agree with Rohan: "You can't take any other direction (s)" sounds most naturally. I put the "s" in parentheses, because to me, it affects the meaning of the sentence.

"You can't take any other direction" refers to "way" or "route" as in asking for directions to arrive at a specific place.

"You can't take any other directions" refers to following rules or instructions as in according to directions.

It's just a hunch. Maybe I'm mistaken. Would like to know what you all think.

share|improve this answer

Your second answer would be more appropriate, as in the second sentence is more widely used than the first one.

share|improve this answer
You've repeated what Jay says, but added nothing. – Matt E. Эллен Jun 28 '12 at 8:56
This is really a comment, not an answer to the question. You can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – JSBձոգչ Aug 16 '12 at 15:51

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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