176 votes

"It really doesn't matter" v "It doesn't really matter"

When the adverb really comes before a negated auxiliary, the effect is of emphasising the truth of the sentence: I really cannot tell the difference. Here the speaker is emphasising that they ...
Araucaria - Him's user avatar
33 votes
Accepted

What is the difference between "The army didn't have any" and "didn't have no" in "It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier"?

It is a dig at the alleged low intelligence of the military personnel. Throughout that song there are sideswipes at the military in general. Examples: He couldn't tell a shelter half from an ...
Chenmunka's user avatar
  • 13k
28 votes

"It really doesn't matter" v "It doesn't really matter"

Ultimately the word "really" means the same in both cases, of adding strength or emphasis. If we swap "really" for "definitely" this becomes more clear: The first one is like "It definitely ...
Max Williams's user avatar
  • 23.1k
27 votes
Accepted

Non-existing or nonexisting

Short answer: neither. The word you want is nonexistent. Longer answer: You can actually add a "non" prefix to any word to make up something new, even if it's not in the dictionary. (If you ...
Jason Bassford's user avatar
23 votes
Accepted

If saying 'Why can't I ...?' is correct, would 'Why cannot I ...?' be technically correct?

When you remove the contraction, you need to say: Why can I not...? just like with the auxiliaries do or have Why do you not continue...?, Why have you not completed the task? YourDictionary ...
fev's user avatar
  • 33k
23 votes
Accepted

What is it called when "I don't like X" is used to mean "I positively *dislike* X", or "We do not recommend Xing" is used for "We *discourage* Xing"?

Adapted from another answer of mine The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language have a subchapter covering the more general phenomenon laid out in the body of the question. It is titled "...
Araucaria - Him's user avatar
22 votes

Is "inauthentic" inauthentic?

'un...' is the common negative for Anglo Saxon and 'in' does the job for Latin derived words. Unfortunately, the word 'authentic' is of neither derivation: it comes from the ancient Greek '...
Tuffy's user avatar
  • 11.1k
19 votes

Understanding the purported ambiguity in “Every boy didn’t run”

If "every" is in the scope of "not", it means "It is not the case that every boy ran," or, that is, "Some boy didn't run," or "Not every boy ran." That is the preferred interpretation if every is ...
Greg Lee's user avatar
  • 17.3k
19 votes

Are "No more healthy than" and "No more big than" both OK?

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik have the following in their A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (pp. 462-463): Most adjectives that are inflected for their comparison can also take ...
grandtout's user avatar
  • 1,718
19 votes

What is the difference between "The army didn't have any" and "didn't have no" in "It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier"?

The other answers are correct, but they (and the OP) are missing an important piece of context: the first part of the quoted sentence. The full introduction to the song runs as follows: I have only ...
mweiss's user avatar
  • 628
19 votes

Why is "at least" unnatural here? "It won't take at least 15 minutes to walk there."

I agree with you that (1) is unnatural. I think it's not just a grammar issue but also a logical one: it's kind of hard to work out what the phrase "it won't take at least" should mean, and ...
N. Virgo's user avatar
  • 788
18 votes

"Whether or not" vs. "whether"

The New York Times' stylebook says or not is often redundant. It is ordinarily omitted when the clause functions as a noun, e.g. it is the object of a verb or preposition, or subject of the sentence. ...
WBT's user avatar
  • 3,544
17 votes

"It really doesn't matter" v "It doesn't really matter"

I think it helps a lot to break these two sentences down: It really doesn't matter: The base sentence here is It doesn't matter. Really is an adverb which modifies doesn't. In this case, it puts ...
nmg49's user avatar
  • 687
17 votes

Why can't "any" be used as subject in negative sentences, while "no" can?

First, the question is out of left field. The ungrammaticality of *Any children didn't come doesn't have a thing to do with subjects. It has to do with how one uses the word any, which is rather a ...
John Lawler's user avatar
16 votes

Is it "Don't let's" or "Let's don't"?

According to the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston & Pullum 2002), there are two dialect usages within Standard English with regard to let's. One of these has let as a verb ...
Araucaria - Him's user avatar
16 votes

I don’t suppose you are coming, [are you / aren't you]?

@ColinFine got it right. I don’t suppose you are coming, are you? *I don’t suppose you are coming, aren't you? The second one is ungrammatical. The first one is the way it should be. That's the ...
John Lawler's user avatar
15 votes

Are "No more healthy than" and "No more big than" both OK?

Instead of using more to form comparatives, notice what happens when you use inflection for the comparative degree: Oversleeping is no healthier than overeating. The camera is no bigger than my ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 134k
15 votes

Is "inauthentic" inauthentic?

There are many, many common Latin-derived words that take un-: unfortunate, unpopular, unusual, unable, et cetera. I don't think this rule is particularly accurate.
alphabet's user avatar
  • 17.5k
15 votes

Why is "at least" unnatural here? "It won't take at least 15 minutes to walk there."

It won't take at least 15 minutes to walk there. It won't take more than 15 minutes to walk there. The meaning from other usage customarily heard, comes across as if the adverbial phrase 'at least' ...
Maggie's user avatar
  • 179
12 votes

Why is "at least" unnatural here? "It won't take at least 15 minutes to walk there."

To supplement the more detailed answers with a brief intuitive take: "At least" implies that the value given is a minimum, and the actual amount could be larger. The construct "it won'...
Cristobol Polychronopolis's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

The correct negative form (past participle)

Both ways are grammatical. In some cases, one form will be more idiomatic than another form, but there is no general rule as to which one you should use. All the following sentences are correct: Our ...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Is "don't" a particle of its own?

Questions like Why do you play chess? display subject auxiliary inversion; the auxiliary verb do appears before the subject you. In a normal declarative clause, the adverb not occurs after the first ...
Araucaria - Him's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

"There is no man who has never looked upon a woman WITH/WITHOUT desire"

If we parse from the right beginning with "has never looked at a woman with/without desire" and apply it to an individual man, call him Mark, then Mark has never looked at a woman without desire ...
davidlol's user avatar
  • 4,333
10 votes
Accepted

Understanding the purported ambiguity in “Every boy didn’t run”

The quote would be clearer if it spoke of the difference between the reading in which all boys didn’t run and (that in which) some did. In the positive version “every boy ran”, there is no ambiguity: ...
Lawrence's user avatar
  • 38.5k
9 votes

"It really doesn't matter" v "It doesn't really matter"

When dealing with modifiers, it is crucial to understand what is being modified, and in English, this is typically determined positionally: modifiers tend to come directly before the thing being ...
Kyle Strand's user avatar
9 votes

is "weren't you..." considered grammatically correct? Because expanded, it would translate to "were not you..."

It's absolutely considered grammatically correct. Remember, languages change over time, and abbreviations being added to languages is normal, sometimes leaving the abbreviation in common usage but the ...
Gabriel Staples's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

"Negating" a sentence (by adding, perhaps, "no" or "don't") gives the same meaning

They belong to a class of words or phrases called opposonyms. opposonym: a word or phrase that appears to be the opposite of another word or phrase but actually has the same or a similar meaning, ...
Dan's user avatar
  • 673
8 votes
Accepted

Is it normal to use "yes" begin a negative answer?

According to On the syntax of yes and no in English (alt link: download PDF), English uses the polarity-based system, in contrast to languages like Japanese that use the truth-based system. (This is ...
Laurel's user avatar
  • 66.1k
8 votes

No man (or woman) is an island

The normal understanding of "No man is an island" is that there is not any man who is an island (lives in complete isolation). However, the specific wording of "No woman is also an island" may (...
Davo's user avatar
  • 7,194

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