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  1. Bill doesn’t run or swim.

  2. Bill doesn’t run and doesn’t swim.

What is the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

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  • 1
    This is a case where English does follow the rules of formal logic: not (A or B) = (not A and not B)
    – Colin Fine
    May 14 '20 at 11:09
  • Are “doesn’t run and swim” and “doesn’t run and doesn’t swim” same? May 14 '20 at 11:52
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    No, because doesn't run and swim is ambiguous. It could mean "doesn't do both at the same time", or it could mean the same as "doesn't run and doesn't swim". That is a case where English does not reliably follow the rules of formal logic.
    – Colin Fine
    May 14 '20 at 14:09
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In your particular case, they are the same. however normally you wouldn't use 'and' in this case, as it's a more complex sentence structure.

How 'and' would normally be used, would be as both happening together. Like "John doesn't drink and drive." This doesn't mean he doesn't do either in their own, just that he doesn't drink while driving (or shortly before would be implied).

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  • So you mean, “Bill doesn’t run and swim” means he don’t run and swim simultaneously or he don’t swim after running? @Michael May 14 '20 at 11:51
  • It could be understood to mean 'He doesn't run and swim at the same time', although of course that would not be possible for anyone. May 14 '20 at 13:07
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  1. Bill doesn't run or swim = Bill doesn't run. Bill doesn't swim.

  2. Bill doesn't run and swim. ---> Bill doesn't run and swim at the same time. (It's not possible too.)

  3. Bill doesn't run, and he doesn't swim, either. (Bill doesn't run and doesn't swim.) = Bill doesn't run. Bill doesn't swim.

But this sentence is long and cumbersome, so the shorter negative sentences with 'or' are preferable.

1
  • I'd say that your second sentence is ambiguous. It would be taken either way
    – Kevin
    Jun 25 '20 at 13:28

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