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This radio is no good. It does not work properly.

This radio is not good. It does not work properly.

Which sentence is proper? Can anyone give other such instances?

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  • Can you elaborate on what you mean by "other such instances?" That could mean (a) other subtle differences in the usage of no/not good, such as "This magazine article is not good" vs "This magazine article is no good" or (b) other similar differences between no/not (it's hard to find another word besides 'good' where you can use both "no" and "not" in front of it, e.g., not terrific vs no terrific), or (c) something else entirely.
    – J.R.
    Nov 9, 2013 at 7:57
  • @J.R. Yes, I meant the former one.
    – Maulik V
    Nov 11, 2013 at 6:14

1 Answer 1

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Broadly, no good means “worthless, of no use at all” for your current purposes. You would use it of your radio if it wouldn’t play at all, or could not pick up the particular program you wanted to listen to it.

Not good means just that: less than good in some respect. You might use it of your radio if the sound quality was poor, or if it intermittently lost the signal.

However, not good is rarely used in this way, of a particular radio or person or sandwich or X; we prefer to use either

  • a “positively negative” adjective —This X is pretty poor or bad or awful or something of that sort, or
  • not a good XThis is not a good radio.

I can’t recall ever hearing not good used of anything except general circumstances. A coach, for instance, might see the opponent score three quick goals and say “This is not good”, or a doctor examining your X-rays might shake his head sadly and say “I’m afraid it’s not good”. In such cases the meaning would not be so much that this defensive lapse or that dark spot was “not good” but that the speaker did not like the prospects suggested by what he was seeing.

ADDED:
choster points out the transitive use of good in the phrase good for X, meaning having a good effect on. This is ordinarily used in predicates, and it’s negation with not is, too:

Candy is not good for your teeth.

choster also suggests that statements like It’s not good to drive there in the wet season is another use; but I would read this cleft construction as an instance of the general-circumstances use:

To drive there in the wet season is not good.

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  • The question doesn't ask about it, but no good for comes to mind. "He's no good for you!"
    – user230
    Nov 12, 2013 at 19:10
  • @snailboat I don't think I've encountered that one. Is it different from a screwdriver's "no good" (= worthless) for nailing, or a grammarian's "no good" (= worthless) for writing ad copy? Nov 12, 2013 at 20:13

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