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I have always put a hyphen in the fragment "no-longer X", but neither the BBC website or the Economist seem to put one in. I always thought that

The piece of string was no longer than five inches.

should not have one, but

After I cut it, the string was no-longer whole.

needed one, because longer is a comparative. Certainly when I read the two sentences above aloud I put a different emphasis on the words.

Does anyone know if this is or was common? I'm from the UK, if that makes a difference to the answer.

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If I were you, I'd no longer use that hyphen. (In your example, "no" and "longer" don't function together as a single adjective, but instead form a simple rephrasing of "not whole any longer.") –  J.R. Nov 22 '12 at 12:01
    
@J.R. Agree with the pun. However, no longer never had a hyphen in the first place, so "no longer use that hyphen" may not apply. –  Kris Nov 23 '12 at 4:59

2 Answers 2

Like any other, no longer is a set phrase meaning 'not now as formerly', but it is not a 'word' formed by hyphenation.

Like no longer there are many other phrases formed with 'no' : no less, no more, no man, no sooner ...

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I agree that "no longer" is a set phrase, but in the same way as "no man"? I'm not sure about that. The closest similar example I can think of is "no-one"; compare "No one man is an island" to "No-one is an island". –  karaken12 Nov 27 '12 at 14:27
    
It seems no-one is very rare, mainly in BrE. –  Kris Nov 27 '12 at 15:58
    
"UK users ... prefer no-one to noone 50 to 1 ..." (Wiktionary); I am from the UK, so "no-one" is common, and indeed I would consider "noone" a misspelling (as does my spellchecker :o) ). –  karaken12 Nov 27 '12 at 16:51
    
@karaken12 read that again :) -- " to noone ". I did not talk about noone at all. No one prefers "no-one" to "no one" even in the UK. –  Kris Nov 28 '12 at 5:37
    
I'm afraid you've lost me. I don't think you mentioned "no one" or "noone"/"no-one" at all -- I brought it up, as an example of a phrase/word that I think is similar to "no longer". I'm no linguist, so forgive me if I get the terms wrong, but "one" in "no one man" is an adjective, where "no-one" is a pronoun. Similarly, isn't "no longer" an adjective in "no longer than", but an adverb in "no longer whole"? I guess I thought that "no one" was to "no-one" as "no longer" is to "no-longer", which doesn't seem to be the case. Now I just want to know if there was any basis for my mistake! –  karaken12 Nov 28 '12 at 14:24

Do you have any authentic examples? I (also in the UK) have never seen the two words hyphenated and the citations in the OED illustrating the use of the expression show two separate words. There seems to be no justification for writing them otherwise. The fact that longer is a comparative has no bearing on the matter.

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That's just the trouble -- I can't seem to find any! Unfortunately the search engines I've tried don't distinguish between "no-longer" and "no longer" as search strings, so I can't tell if there genuinely are none, or just so few they get lost in the rest. In any case, I think it's conclusive that it's not common! –  karaken12 Nov 27 '12 at 14:30

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