Sometimes I see two variants of following sentence:

  • "there are not any employees" in the department
  • "there is not any employee" in the department

What is the correct sentence?


As long as you are referring to more than one subject, I would go with:

There are not any employees in the department.

For referring to a single instance, I would go with "there is no"

There is no employee in the department.

If the topic has no plural form (or is rarely used with a plural form), then I would consider "there isn't any":

"There isn't any water" = There is no water

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  • 4
    water is uncountable. – delete Aug 9 '10 at 12:59
  • 2
    @Shinto: a/ I never said otherwise in my answer: as a substance, water is a mass noun. b/ you can find water with an 's': "territorial waters". Other examples: forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=195932 – VonC Aug 9 '10 at 13:41
  • And as a variation, "There are no employees" feels more natural to me than "not any"; but the point is we generally agree on the plural, because most departments would have more than one employee. – njd Aug 9 '10 at 16:35
  • On its own, the second example doesn't sound right, unless you specify which employee you're talking about, e.g. "there is no employee in this department called John". – Steve Melnikoff Aug 21 '10 at 14:34

I'd use

There are no employees.

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"There are not any employees" is the correct one.

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I think that not any is usually replaced by no or, in case you want to stress it, not a single, when applied to countable nouns.

When you shorten not to 'nt, you can use any with either the singular or the plural, but I think the plural is more common. With the singular I would use a single again instead of any. There seems to be a plural connotation to any.

I think these sentences are grammatically correct, but they sound off, the first one more than the second:

There is not any employee here.
There isn't any employee here.

Much more idiomatic would be either using a single, using no, or using the plural:

There is not a single employee here.
There isn't a single employee here.
There is no employee here.
There are not any employees here.
There aren't any employees here.

Of course, with mass nouns, you do use the singular together with any, although no can also be used:

There isn't any time to finish he work!
There is no time to finish the work!

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"are" would be the correct verb form to match the plural noun "employees".

The most idiomatic form in Canada is "There aren't any employees in the department." A more formal construction, depending on the context, would be "The department has no employees."

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There is no... compared with there isn't any - the former is stylistically incorrect, whereas the latter is proper English. I hear this mistake frequently from speakers of American English.

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