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Consider these sentences...

1)...

No unreasonable limitations and regulations will be willingly obeyed.

No unreasonable limitations or regulations will be willingly obeyed.

No unreasonable limitations and/or regulations will be willingly obeyed.

EDIT: (Will unreasonable regulations that aren't limitations be willingly obeyed? Does the use of "and" instead of "or" make a difference to the meaning?)

Is there any difference in the conveyed meaning of these sentences when "and", "or" or "and/or" is used? In other words, are "and" and "or" interchangeable in cases like this? Lets assume, based on some hypothetical context, that the adjective always applies to both nouns. The question is not about which sentence has the best choice of words, but rather about whether the use of "and" or "or" makes any difference to the meaning of the sentences.

Some more examples... I tried to use plural nouns that both refer to physical objects as well as more abstract concepts. In each case, the second noun is purposefully chosen to be related to and/or inclusive of the first noun.

2)...

No wilted flowers and plants will be sold.

No wilted flowers or plants will be sold.

No wilted flowers and/or plants will be sold.

EDIT: (Will wilted plants that aren't flowers be sold?)

3)...

No low-quality bricks and building materials will be used.

No low-quality bricks or building materials will be used.

No low-quality bricks and/or building materials will be used.

EDIT: (Will low-quality building materials that aren't bricks be used?)

4)...

No impractical suggestions and requests will be considered.

No impractical suggestions or requests will be considered.

No impractical suggestions and/or requests will be considered.

EDIT: (Will impractical requests that aren't suggestions be considered? Note that "requests" can be construed as "asking for a suggestion to be implemented", Therefore in this sentence "requests" are meant to include "suggestions" )

5)...

No inconsiderate remarks and conduct will be tolerated.

No inconsiderate remarks or conduct will be tolerated.

No inconsiderate remarks and/or conduct will be tolerated.

EDIT: (Will inconsiderate conduct that isn't remarks be tolerated?)

  • If you're asking a bunch of programmers for their notion of an answer to this, you’ll get a completely different answer than you’ll get if you ask a bunch of lawyers. Which group do you hope to get an answer from? Are you aware that legally speaking, and and or mean the exactly the same thing? Which answer do you want? – tchrist Sep 12 '18 at 0:39
  • Thankyou, I am actually looking for an answer in a legal context, as well as an answer from a normal "day-to-day" perspective... if that makes any sense. – Askie Sep 12 '18 at 8:43
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It makes a difference with other kinds of pairs.

No dogfood and goldfish on sale.

does not sound good, and neither does

No coal and margarine on sale.

but I can imagine a petshop with a sign

No dogfood or goldfish on sale.

and an allpurpose shop with a sign

No coal or margarine on sale.

In the these cases the 'and' suggests a connection between the items which is not necessarily there, making the brain (mine at least) process it as one mixed item.
On the other hand

No fish and chips on sale

sounds fine.

As does

No nuts and raisins on sale.

Or

No tea and cake left.

It seems to work somewhat like logic where Not(A or B) means Not A and Not B, while Not (A and B) means not both together.

In all of your examples (perhaps with the exception of suggestions and requests) there is a close relatedness of the two items discussed, which is why I think the sample sentences sound ok.

The and/or version would cover all possible permutations but is not the most natural sounding.

  • Thank you S Conroy. You seem to say that the relatedness of the two nouns joined by "and" can lead the reader to reasonably understand that the phrase is meant as a single functional unit (like "rules and regulations"). The important question for me is whether the more general noun's meaning is limited to the more specific noun . For example... is "plants" in "flowers and plants" thus limited to mean "only flowers" or "plants in general"? Thank you for your detailed answer. – Askie Sep 12 '18 at 9:19
  • @KannE I don't think they necessarily need to be sold in sets. It's more a mental connection that's made, which is probably connected to them being used very often together in speech and they'd also often be found together in real life (e.g. the same section of an apartment store). – S Conroy Sep 12 '18 at 13:33
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    @Askie I'm not 100% sure I understand, but I'll try to answer anyway. Flowers and plants mean both i.e. including plants which don't flower. Flowers means flowers; plants includes flowers so in that sample sentence 'flowers' is technically superflous. – S Conroy Sep 12 '18 at 13:41
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    @KannE I'd prefer 'no jackets or ties on sale' too. – S Conroy Sep 12 '18 at 21:59
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tldr: use or

'and' means both, 'or' implies either.

So saying 'No impractical suggestions and requests will be considered.' Would technically mean asking for something that is an impractical suggestion but a practical request would be considered. Which is weird.

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    I should point out though, that in a conversation, the meaning is roughly the same. – Jamie Clinton Sep 12 '18 at 0:23
  • Legally, they are exactly the same. In logic only are they distinct. – tchrist Sep 12 '18 at 0:42
  • @tchrist Thankyou, can you please elaborate a little on why in a legal sense "and" an "or" can be considered interchangeable in this cases? – Askie Sep 12 '18 at 11:05
  • @Askie Because of how English words. “Joe is now free to consult with friends or family” means that he can consult with both of those. The or there means and. – tchrist Sep 12 '18 at 11:10
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This speaks to conditionality. Taken one at a time. The use of 'and' means that both conditions must be met for the statement to be true. E.G.-"Were you drunk and at your friend's house?"

To be able to answer in the affirmative, one would have to be both drunk while also at the friend's house.

Using 'or' on the other hand means that one of the conditions was true, while the other was not: you were drunk; [or] you were at your friend's house. If both of these conditions were true, then the original statement would be false.

And/Or covers all the bases between the two options; so that if one or both of the conditions were true, the the statement would be true.

  • You don't seem to have mentioned that and/or is considered rough shorthand that should not be used outside of the same. Could you do that please? – tchrist Sep 12 '18 at 0:43
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    This answer is wrong. While a case can be made for ambiguity, the more regular interpretation of or is inclusive. It means A or B or A and B. If you want to denote exclusivity, you need to phrase it as only A or B. – Jason Bassford Sep 12 '18 at 0:46
  • This answer does not cover OP's case at all. (With the preceding negation) – Jim Sep 12 '18 at 1:23
  • I was taking the context of the question to be definitive. My answer is in a Logic or legal sense. In common usage or, especially, fiction, or will suffice. – mcr Sep 12 '18 at 3:49

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