You've got a problem - either you solve it or not. Draw is impossible.

This is my sentence. I used it when describing a mathematician and mathematics in general. The figurative meaning is that you fight a mathematical problem in a game. You either win (solve it) or lose (can't solve it). There is no third outcome.

A native speaker said that these particular sentences don't make sense. I was left wondering what might cause problems? 'Draw' means 'tie' in a sport, when neither side has won.


I can rephrase it only this way:

You've got a puzzle, and you either solve it or not. A tie is impossible.

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    Out of context, I don't know what your "draw" means. Perhaps that's why they couldn't make sense of it. Another thing is perhaps in math, you need to have a problem before you start to solve it. – Damkerng T. Mar 19 '14 at 10:21
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    @DamkerngT.: 'draw' like in football or many other sports. I said that you've got the problem first. – Graduate Mar 19 '14 at 10:23
  • Out of context, also "problem" is problematic. A mathematician "having a problem" means he has a puzzle to solve. "Normal" people, when they have a problem, they are in trouble. When I first read your sentence, I thought you were telling someone to get their act together :) . – oerkelens Mar 19 '14 at 10:26
  • Though it can be ambiguous, I think in the context, they should be able to understand you. I can understand you perfectly now. – Damkerng T. Mar 19 '14 at 10:29
  • I'm not sure who brought the problem (or the puzzle) up first. The first time I read it, I thought they brought it up and you could see through it that it's unsolvable. (I probably might say, "Your problem is unsolvable. A draw (or a tie) is impossible." It also sounds like they wanted a draw as the result.) – Damkerng T. Mar 19 '14 at 10:36

In the context of a mathematical problem many people won't see it as a game. Only in a game (such as chess) can you have a draw in the way you are using it. If you are using mathematical problems as a game them it would make sense to say "A draw is impossible."

But in your case I would prefer something like:

You've got a problem - either you solve it completely or not at all.

You could add: "There are no points for a partially completed problem." if desired to emphasize it.

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  • I agree but then the OP wants to emphasize it continuing the sentence and with minimum words I guess. – Maulik V Mar 19 '14 at 11:21

Leaving using the word problem up to you (is it a puzzle, sum or riddle, I'm not sure!), I'll focus on what exactly you want.

I'd prefer saying this -

You got a (puzzle/riddle/sum/problem/issue) which you can either solve it fully or drop it completely. There is no halfway mark.

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