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, 2016 at 14:59

2 Answers 2


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, 2016 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...

enter image description here

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

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .