1

"Bread, rice and porridge - I don't like them."

One way to express this meaning is

I (don't) like neither bread nor rice nor porridge.

But this way is a little emphatic.

Are there another ways to express the same meaning without to put so much emphasis into the negation?

5

The conventional way to say this would be, "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge."

"Neither/nor" is normally used only when there are two things under discussion, and when we are contrasting them. Like, "He wanted to neither sit nor stand." It's awkward when there are more than two things, and not generally use when they are in the same "category".

Also, you shouldn't say "I don't like neither ..." This is a double negative and redundant. You can say "I like neither X nor Y" or "I don't like either X or Y".

What's wrong with simply, "I don't like ..."? If you're trying to sound less negative, to make it a weaker negative, then as Phil suggests, you could add a qualifying word, like "I don't particularly like ..." or "I don't really like ..." But note a curious English idiom here: "I don't really like X" means I dislike it a small amount. "I really don't like X" means I dislike it a lot.

  • Very Late Addition in response to a comment *

RE '"I don't like bread, rice, or porridge". Isn't the meaning of it that I don't like at least one of them but not necessarily all of them?'

In a computer program or a mathematical theorem, it might mean that. But not in ordinary English. Yes, in boolean logic "if A or B" is true when A is true or B is true. But that's now how it works in plain English. Occasionally someone in a field that works with boolean logic will make a joke like this. Someone asks, "Are you coming on Tuesday or Wednesday?" and they say "Yes" and smile smugly, meaning that it is true that they are coming on Tuesday, or it is true that they are coming on Wednesday. What the person asking the question means, of course, is on which of the two days are you coming. A responsive answer would be "I am coming on Tuesday", or "I am coming on Wednesday", not "Yes" if you are coming on one of those days and "no" if you are not. (The fact that programmers and mathematicians think this kind of joke is hysterically funny probably says something about us, but that's another story.)

In ordinary English, if you say, "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge", you mean that you don't like any of the three.

If someone is asking a question, "Do you like bread, rice, or porridge?", it can be ambiguous. It can mean, "which of the three do you like?" or it can mean "do you like any of the three?". If the waiter asks, "Would you like soup or salad?", he probably means "which of the two".

  • The simply one is not wrong for me. I'm just in doubt about the meaning of "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge". Isn't the meaning of it that I don't like at least one of them but not necessarily all of them? (Regarding "a double negative and redundant." - I agree. But nevertheless it's colloquial in American English, isn't it?) – Min-Soo Pipefeet Nov 28 '17 at 14:40
  • Does the sentence "I don't like bread, rice, and porridge" have a different meaning than "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge"? – Min-Soo Pipefeet Nov 28 '17 at 18:10
  • 1
    @Min-SooPipefeet - Really, it's said well in this answer: The conventional way to say this would be, "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge." – J.R. Nov 28 '17 at 18:15
  • 1
    @Min-SooPipefeet In this context, using "and" instead of "or" would probably be understood to mean the same thing. But in other contexts it could be understood to mean that you don't like the combination. Like if someone said, "I don't like peanut butter and jelly", I'd take that to mean that he doesn't like the combination, but he might like peanut butter by itself or with other things, or he might like jelly with other things. – Jay Nov 29 '17 at 15:04
  • @Jay, will "I don't like peanut butter or jelly" make you think 'I don't like peanut and I don't like jelly'? Or it has to be "I don't like peanut either butter or jelly"? – dan Dec 2 '17 at 1:30
3

I don't like bread, rice, or porridge.

I don't like bread and rice, or porridge for that matter.

Bread, rice, porridge—I don't really care for any of them.

  • Isn't the meaning of "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge" that I don't like at least one of them but not necessarily all of them? – Min-Soo Pipefeet Nov 28 '17 at 14:36
  • 1
    @Min-SooPipefeet - People talking around the dinner table don't speak in cryptic logic, unless they are playing a riddle game. If Tᴚoɯɐuo said, "I don't like bread, rice, or porridge," most would (correctly) assume the dislike extends to all three. – J.R. Nov 28 '17 at 15:38
  • My dislike applies to all members of the set: {bread, rice, porridge}. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 28 '17 at 15:51
  • 1
    @Tᴚoɯɐuo Your second example sentence contains an and. Is the sentence "I don't like bread, rice, and porridge" possible too? Or does the and add a different meaning? – Min-Soo Pipefeet Nov 28 '17 at 22:18
  • 1
    I doubt there is a pragmatic difference. With and there is a slight indication that the list is complete, as is. With or, there is a slight indication that the list could go on to include other items. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 29 '17 at 2:31
1

Either "really" or "particularly" could be added to reduce the emphatic nature of "don't like".

Examples: "I don't really like them". "I don't particularly like them".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.