a) They have no child. b) They have no children.

Are both a) and b) correct? Though b) seems more common.

  • 1
    The (b) form is more common, to the extent that the (a) form just sounds wrong to me. Though "No child left behind", by contrast, seems perfectly fine. – Dan Bron Aug 26 '14 at 11:21
  • It's the same as He has no friend/friends - but not the same as He has no brain/brains. – FumbleFingers Aug 26 '14 at 11:42
  • 3
    The (a) form would only be (sensibly) chosen in unusual circumstances, with enabling prior context. It's a formal, and often rather dated usage: 'Both of them are by this time old. and they have no child from their marriage.' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 26 '14 at 13:09

Swan in Practical English Usage (p352) has a good entry on this question:

After no, countable nouns are usually plural unless the sense makes a singular noun necessary. Compare:

  • He's got no children. (More natural than He's got no child.)

  • He's got no wife. (More normal than He's got no wives.)

So, They have no children is indeed more common and natural than They have no child. Conversely, They have no car seems more natural than They have no cars.

| improve this answer | |

'They have no children' or 'She has no children' is much more common. However 'They have no child' although okay to say seems a bit dramatic when you can say the other version.

| improve this answer | |

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