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When do we use "no women" instead of "no woman"? I thought we used "no woman" instead of "no women" by default, but it seems that some people do use "no women". Is there a situation where one is preferred over the other, or are both phrases synonymous and can be used at any time?

For example:

This list identified sixty-seven men and no women.

57

Zero is usually treated as plural. So "one woman", "zero women". If "no" means "zero" then you typically use the plural.

No women have come to class today.

However when "no" means "not one" you can use a singular to underline not a single one:

No woman should have to put up with harassment.

The difference between these is subtle and there is variation in actual usage.

  • 8
    @blackbird Just to clarify the subtlety here, using the singular emphasises that "not a single one". So for example "no woman should suffer discrimination" emphasises you wouldn't tolerate even a single woman being discriminated against. I support and go further than John hamilton's previous comment that "not any" actually goes better with the plural "not any women". – samerivertwice Sep 2 at 9:52
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In my experience, the choice between "no woman" and "no women" is usually determined by this question: if there were at least one woman, would there be only one, or multiple?

Examples:

This list identified sixty-seven men and no women.

We use "no women" because if the list did identify at least one woman, it would probably identify multiple women.

No! I'm not married! I'm a single man! I am married to no woman!

We use "no woman" here because if the man were married, he would probably be married to only one woman.

We have lots of hot dog buns, but no hot dogs.

We use "no hot dogs" because if we did have at least one hot dog, we would probably have multiple hot dogs.

I own a computer, but no TV.

We use "no TV" because if I did own a TV, I would probably own only one TV.

  • As appealing as this argument is, it's inaccurate. – Dancrumb Sep 2 at 20:47
  • @Dancrumb: could you elaborate? By itself, I don't find your comment that helpful. If this is inaccurate, maybe you could give a counterexample. – sumelic Sep 3 at 8:41
  • I can't really give a counter-example as the whole argument is based on a fallacy that the plurality of the noun as a non-member of a collection depends on the "likelihood" of the plurality of the noun if it were a member of the collection. That's just not how it works. – Dancrumb Sep 3 at 14:25
  • @Dancrumb But if the rule has no counterexamples, then the rule is correct. So does it have any counterexamples? – Tanner Swett Sep 3 at 14:27
  • @TannerSwett you're confusing validity with correctness. You can have a valid argument based on a faulty premise and that would make it incorrect. Your premise is incorrect here because the idea of "probability" is purely suppositional and is not consistently applicable. The rule here cannot be universally applied since the probabilities are not universal. If you insist on a counterexample, I would say that "I would probably own only one TV" is not remotely the case in areas of high affluence. – Dancrumb Sep 3 at 15:50
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One man and one woman, zero, two or sixty-seven men and women. Wherever you would use 'man', use 'woman' (when referring to females), and wherever you would use 'men', the female equivalent is 'women'.

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I liked @James K's answer.

"Women," is usually for general purposes. "No women allowed," or "Women's magazine," or "Women's #1 top choice of purses," etc.

"Woman," is more specific. "This (specific) woman is not allowed," or "This (specific) woman's magazine is very interesting," or "This (specific) woman's favorite purse is X."

One of the only cases I can think of that uses "Woman," in a more general term, would be if you could replace "No woman," with "no person." For example: "Some say no woman (no person) can do this," or "No woman (no person) would resist that bargain!" Something like that.

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This list identified sixty-seven men and no women.

In this case, "men" is plural, so "women" must agree with that grammatical number. Otherwise, it's jarring.

Here's a different way of writing it:

This list identified 67 men but not a single woman.

In that sentence, "woman" is used because "single" changes the number from plural to singular. (Also, the "but" starts a new "sub-sentence" and thus the grammatical number is reset).

(And sixty-seven is changed to 67 because traditionally the numbers zero to nine or ten are spelled, and the numbers ten or eleven and above are written numerically. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule...)

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