I often use the first construct in my writing to others to mean (elongated) Person A and, or not, Person B (i.e., The first person comes with or without the second person).

An English major I know states that it should be the second construct, as in both people come, or the first person comes instead of the second person (and vice-versa), but not both people coming or Person A coming without Person B. Please be nice in your comments/answers, I shall be providing a link to this Q&A onto this person.

Yes I am a in IT and the use of the first construct conforms with Boolean logic used in programming, however if most others read "and/not" as just "not" I am going to have to change.

Is the first and second construct valid in English? Do people think the latter should be used, instead of the former. Extra brownie points for linking to an authoritative webpage on this subject, which I spent time, but couldn't easily find.

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    Your question is very confusing. I think you are using "first construct" to mean "the first thing mentioned in the title of my question", but that is far from clear. Oct 5, 2020 at 20:54
  • @Acccumulation - That is precisely what it means; What else could "first construct", at the start of a post, with a subject line above, mean?
    – user66001
    Oct 7, 2020 at 9:25
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    Simply because no other meaning is apparent, doesn't mean that the intended one is clear. The definition of "construct" is "an idea or theory containing various conceptual elements, typically one considered to be subjective and not based on empirical evidence." How does that apply? Oct 7, 2020 at 18:34
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    I guess we can add Occam's Razor to the things you don't understand. Occam's Razor says that given two hypotheses, one of which is significantly more complicated than the other, one should prefer the less complicated one. It does not say that one should assume that a hypothesis is true simply because one cannot think of any other. Thinking that one's hypotheses is true simply because one cannot think of any other is argument from ignorance, a fallacious and arrogant way of thinking. Oct 9, 2020 at 19:13
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    I don't think (B) is clearly less complex than (A). And as I try to practice humility, and (A) involves ignorance on my part, and (B) ignorance on your part, I took (A) as my first hypothesis, and wasted time doing web searches on the term. Even after not finding anything, I did not conclude for certain that (B) was correct, and asked you to confirm. You responded to this abundance of politeness on my part with significant rudeness. Oct 9, 2020 at 19:14

1 Answer 1


There are related questions, such as: When should we use "and" and/or "and/or"?

And/or is pretty standard (although some people object to it) shorthand for "either both, or one or the other". For example:

There will be coffee and/or tea

Means that there will be either coffee or tea, or both coffee and tea.

However, I don't understand what you think "and/not" means. Perhaps you need to give a complete example sentence. (And explain what it means.)

But if someone said:

There will be coffee and not tea

I would assume it was an error for "there will be coffee but not tea". (Or maybe coffee and a beverage called "Not Tea" - a hot drink that is almost, but not quite, completely unlike tea.)

In your example of "The first person comes with or without the second person" then you just mean that "Person A will come" and there is no need to mention Person B.

  • "And/or" is not the desired understanding for the reason you state. Want to convey Person A with Person B, or Person A without Person B, but never Person A doesn't come, but Person B does. The issue with your "In your example" is I want to mention Person B, but not imply this person will necessarily come; Person A would come regardless. Related to my point about boolean logic, check out thepunctuationguide.com/slash.html for a number of meanings for the / using it in place of OR in the expression wolframalpha.com/input/?i=A+and+B+or+not+B and look at the logic table.
    – user66001
    Apr 3, 2019 at 16:38
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    I can't see any way of abbreviating the condition you are describing (if I have understood it correctly: "Person A will always come; Person B may or may not come" ?)
    – user323578
    Apr 3, 2019 at 21:02
  • That is exactly the condition I am describing. I presume by your comment that you can't see any way of abbreviating this, and/not (with / meaning or) doesn't make sense?
    – user66001
    Apr 3, 2019 at 21:12
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    @user66001 That's right. Your abbreviation doesn't make sense to me. (Neither as a native English speaker, nor as a computer programmer!)
    – user323578
    Apr 4, 2019 at 11:42
  • Appreciate you stating it doesn't make sense to you (Which makes this 2 to 1 in terms of those that will understand me using this construct). Strange given you state you are a computer programmer, as Wolfram Alpha understands this logic...
    – user66001
    Apr 4, 2019 at 12:20

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