From my textbook:

Both his parents and his teacher do not believe that the boy lied.

The answer to this question is

Neither his parents nor his teacher believes that the boy lied.

I have no trouble understanding the second sentence, but I don't know why the first sentence is incorrect.

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    The textbook says the first sentence is "incorrect"? And gives no indication of why? You could at least tell us what objectives that particular section of the book is trying to emphasize. Is it a lesson about neither..nor?
    – J.R.
    Jul 11, 2018 at 14:19
  • @J.R. The explanation is not written in English. Translated into English, it briefly says "Use 'neither...nor...' instead of 'both...and...' in negative sentence."
    – A Learner
    Jul 11, 2018 at 14:56
  • 1
    That's a key piece of information that probably should have been included in your original question. You have no idea how helpful something like that can be when trying to answer a question like this one. It pretty much answers your question; now, instead of having to remember that "rule," we can assume you've already been told that, and can instead weigh in on its merits and exceptions.
    – J.R.
    Jul 11, 2018 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


The problem with the "Both... not..." formulation is that it is ambiguous.

If you consider a simpler example:

Both his parents do not believe that the boy lied.

This could mean two different things:
1. neither of them believes that he lied
2. one of them actually does believe that he lied, just not both of them.

"Neither his parents nor his teacher believes that the boy lied." is unambiguous, and a more common and correct way to write.

  • Both his parents do not believe etc. is not idiomatic. His parents do not believe the boy lied.
    – Lambie
    Jul 11, 2018 at 22:06

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