All DriveTest Centres do not provide car rentals to applicants.

The sentence above is taken from here.

In my understanding, it means some DriveTest Centres may provide car rentals while others may not.

However, judging from the context, I'm more likely to interpret it as: None of the DriveTest Centres provide car rentals.

Which interpretation should be taken here?

  • 1
    No 'DriveTest Centres' provide rental cars. Otherwise it would be "Not all (…) do" or "Some (…) provide."
    – Jonas
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 9:15
  • 1
    It is poorly written for sure. Literally taken it would mean that none of the Centres provide rentals (and this is what the context suggests), but idiomatically it suggests that some do, some don't. If they had just not said "All" it would be much clearer.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


This is an ambiguous construction in English. In Shakespeare's time, it would have been unambiguous, and would have meant that some DriveTest Centres provide rental cars, and others do not. Consider

All that glisters is not gold.

From the Merchant of Venice, which means "not everything that glitters is gold."

However, some time between Shakespeare and now, logicians started telling people that "all crows are not white" means "no crows are white", and today this kind of expression is used both with the traditional meaning (which people never stopped using) and with the logical meaning. Those people who claim that today it always has the logical meaning should consider the lyrics of the theme song of the Wizards of Waverly Place:

Everything is not what it seems!

which means "not everything is what it seems."

In fact, to see that the traditional meaning is still alive and well, all you need do is google "all crows are not black". You will see that lots of people are using the traditional meaning even in a logical context. For example, on the internet we find:

As William James so cleverly said, and as has been quoted almost ad nauseam ever since, it takes only one white crow to prove that all crows are not black.

(William James was cleverer than that, and actually said "if you wish to upset the law that all crows are black ...")

In this case, you should go by context.


It means that there are no DriveTest Centres that do provide car rentals to applicants. If you move the negation from the verb to the noun, you get a sentence with the same meaning:

No DriveTest Centres provide car rentals to applicants.

There is no difference in meaning, but the negation applies to another part of the sentence. Sometimes this can lead to different meanings, but not in this case.

Here's a simpler sentence that might clarify the difference:

  • All vegetables are not fruit.
  • No vegetables are fruit.

Essentially this means the same thing, but there is a difference. In the first sentence, you're talking about all vegetables. There are a lot of them and they all are not fruit. In the second sentence, you're talking about no vegetables which will equal to zero. Out of all the vegetables, nothing is fruit.

The reason they chose to negate the verb and not the subject in your sentence is probably because they want to stress that they do not provide instead of stressing the noun.

  • Tomatoes, eggplants, and hot peppers are both vegetables and fruits. If you wanted to pick a misleading example sentence, you did a great job. Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 19:58

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