I taught my students that they can use any in questions with abstract countable nouns. Was I right? For example:

Do you have any idea? (idea = abstract but countable)
Do you have any reason to do it? (= reason = abstract but countable)

And I also taught them that they can use no even with abstract countable nouns / countable nouns.

I have no reason to do it.
I don't have any reason to do it.

I can use both of these interchangeably?

But what about

I have no car.
I don't have a car.

Can I use both of these interchangeably too? Or there is a difference between them? Like no emphasizes the status of not having the thing?

I don't have a car - a normal sentence

Take your car, Tom.
But I have no car!! How many times do I have to tell you?!

Thanks a lot!

  • I can see no problems with your reasoning.
    – Mick
    Dec 11 '16 at 14:59

You were technically correct (the best kind of correct!) - however, the usage of any and no is not limited to either abstract or countable nouns. All of the following sentences are correct:

- Do you have any money? (uncountable, not abstract)
- No, I have no money.

- Do you have any cars? (countable, not abstract)
- No, I have no cars.

- Do you have any information? (uncountable, abstract)
- No, I have no information.

- Do you have any relationships? (countable, abstract)
- No, I have no relationships.

  • And what about no? For example - I have no car ... by the way, thank you very much !!
    – Chery
    Dec 11 '16 at 15:43

Tom might well have been likely to say I have no car a century or more ago, but today he'd almost certainly say I don't have a car or I haven't got a car.

When the "denial" applies to multiple items (He has no teeth, I have no siblings, etc.) the simpler construction remains perfectly idiomatic, but when denying the existence/ownership of even a single thing it comes across as lofty / literary / stylised / theatrical. Here's a short Youtube cartoon poking fun at "figurative" I have no son! used as an overblown / affected reaction to one's son's shortcomings.

To a lesser degree, in conversational contexts people increasingly tend to avoid the simpler construction with uncountable referents. Thus the trend today is towards I don't have any money rather than I have no money...

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...but note that some collocations, such as I have no idea! are firmly established, and not likely to change any time soon.

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