A Washington Post article titled "Justice Dept. concludes that no, Michael Brown’s hands probably were not up" has this:

According to the report, here is what investigators believe most likely happened on Aug. 9.

There is not evidence to suggest Darren Wilson’s use of force was unreasonable


Michael Brown likely did reach into Wilson’s vehicle and grab the officer


Michael Brown did double back toward Darren Wilson


(Boldface as shown in the original.)

The writer lists these boldfaced sentences as important points, so I believe extra care must have been taken to makes these sentences grammatically correct.

And my question is about the first boldfaced sentence: Is it both grammatical and natural to use "not" as is, instead of "no" or "not any"?

Or is this a typo?

Also, please check to see if the contracted form (There isn't evidence) is any better than the original.

  • Let's throw "There wasn't evidence" into the mix. Why does the contracted form sound right?
    – Tushar Raj
    May 13, 2015 at 6:16
  • Is there a case where only the contracted form is acceptable?
    – JK2
    May 13, 2015 at 6:26
  • As a stands as a logical statement of fact, using not as a term of negation is perfectly acceptable. However, I prefer the simpler and more concise form of the sentence "There is no evidence to suggest..." Jun 12, 2015 at 0:07

4 Answers 4


In my experience, 'not' is a common typographical error for 'no'. In this case, either will work to produce the same meaning or communicate the same intent, so an editor would not question the word choice. It is common that people will say 'there isn't any evidence' to be more emphatic, but the additional word 'any' is not necessary to convey the meaning of an absence of evidence. Using the non-contracted form is more formal, authoritarian, and concrete, whereas the contracted form comes off as informal as to be an opinion rather than an undisputed fact. When writing propaganda, it is important to express dogma with firm resolution or finality so as to discourage doubt.


Yes it is valid English. As for why they simply use "not" vs. "not sufficient" or "not any", it's probably because it makes the statement harder to question. If they say "There is not any evidence", then someone could say, "Well, what about this...". If they state, "There is not sufficient evidence", then someone could question what is the threshold for determining sufficiency.

  • Do you think it equally valid English to say "There is not milk in the refrigerator"?
    – JK2
    May 14, 2015 at 9:55

While I don't know if it is grammatically correct it is certainly not natural to say:

There is not evidence to suggest Darren Wilson’s use of force was unreasonable.

Naturally it should be stated "no" instead of "not"

There is no evidence to suggest Darren Wilson’s use of force was unreasonable.


This is problem that occurs due to the different order of subject and verb in an existential sentence.

If you use "no", the negation refers to the subject "evidence".

There is "no evidence". Reading this you should make a pause between is and no or emphasize "no evidence".

e.g. There is given no evidence.

If you use "not", the negation refers to the verb "is".

There "is not" evidence. Reading this you should make a pause between not and evidence or emphasize "is not". Like There isn't evidence.

e.g. There is not given evidence.

Either you refer to the presence of nothing or the absence of something that might be evidence.

In "normal" word order this sounds queer but is more clearly.

There no evidence is. or No evidence is there.

compared to

There evidence is not. or Evidence is not there.

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