Examples. "I have no car", "I have no TV". BUT "I have not a car"

There was a thread on it, but the answers were pretty superficial to say the least and only based on someone's opinion. I read a whole book (by Seonaid Beckwith) about articles and there is not a single word about that, which is amazing to me. Does anybody actually know the rule? Please, no opinions :)

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    I have not a car is NOT idiomatic. Native English speakers would say I do not (don't) have a car Commented May 24, 2020 at 11:09
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    "You fool. No man can kill me." - Witch King of Angmar, Lord of the Rings - Moments before meeting no man. Commented May 24, 2020 at 21:31
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    Personally I think I would pluralise these - “I have no cars” and “I gave no televisions”. I’m not confident enough to say it’s right or wrong, but it’s more idiomatic to pluralise them here.
    – Tim
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 22:51
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    @RonaldSole It's archaic, but not unintelligible. Commented May 26, 2020 at 1:13
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    @RonaldSole many native English speakers would say "I have not got a car," or, perhaps more likely, "I haven't got a car."
    – phoog
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 3:43

6 Answers 6


"A" is like saying "one":

  • I have a car
  • I have one car

Logically then, saying "no" is like saying "zero":

  • I have no car
  • I have zero cars.

Therefore, there is no need for an article.

"Not" is neither a determiner nor an article, so saying "I haven't a car" is fine as it is (although one is more likely to say "I don't have a car" or, for Americans, "I haven't got a car").

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    – Glorfindel
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 20:35

Articles belong to a group of words called "determiners". Besides articles, there are other determiners in the English language, and "no" is a determiner too.

Let me quote from BBC:

No is a determiner expressing quantity like 'all', 'every', 'many', 'some', 'any', 'each', 'either', 'one', 'another' and is used before singular and plural nouns. It is similar in meaning to 'not a' or 'not any' and is often our preferred choice if we want to give emphasis to what we are saying.

A singular countable noun like car should have some determiner before it, and no suits the purpose. No additional determiner is required.

Indeed, in some cases we do combine not with a, I'm not sure what the grammar says about this. "I have not a car" sound quaint and wrong in modern English. Maybe several hundred years ago it was more acceptable?

In certain constructions not a + singular count noun certainly remains in use:

Not a shirt on my back,
Not a penny to my name,
Lord, I can't go back home this way.

("500 miles", a song)

I don't recall the rule explaining this.

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    "'I have not a car'" sound quaint and wrong in modern English. Maybe several hundred years ago it was more acceptable?" I suppose that several hundred years having not a car was virtually inevitable
    – Chaim
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 16:12
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    Also "I have not a care in the world"
    – eps
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 20:42
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    @eps but that sounds idiomatic because it's a stock phrase. If someone said "I have a care in the world" it would sound strange, let alone substituing for something else — "I have not a banana" / "I have not a banana in the world" (!?) Commented May 25, 2020 at 10:46
  • This is a much better answer than the accepted one. The grammatical fact that "no" can function as a determiner in English is its own fact, it doesn't "logically" follow from anything. On Earth 2 this is ungrammatical and you "logically" have to say "I have not a car" but everything else is the same. Commented May 27, 2020 at 3:16

I have no car. [no ---> adjective]

I have no a car. ✖ [Two determiners : 'no' & 'a' cannot be used together.]

I have not a car. I don't have a car. I haven't got a car. [not ---> adverb]


The indefinite article a/an historically originates simply as an unstressed version of the numeral one. Some linguists have even argued that semantically, what is called the "indefinite article" is still just a specialized numeral.

And the "negative quantifiers" none and no historically originate from fusion of a negative adverb ne (not used anymore as an independent word) and the numeral one (or indefinite article a/an). The n sound at the end was lost when a following noun was present, as with the word mine/my.

There is no article after no in I have no car because in syntax, no behaves like it contains the indefinite article already.


In British English, "I haven't got a car" is common usage (Americans would be more likely to say "I don't have a car"). "I have no car" is also quite acceptable.

Why doesn't "I have not a car" work? It's confused by the fact that "have" is used as both as an auxiliary verb ("I have seen her") and to mean "own" or "possess" ("I have a car"). But the negative "have not", is only ever used as an auxiliary. In any case, we don't normally negate a verb by adding "not". We don't say "I walk not to work": it's clear what it means, but it's not idiomatic; we say instead "I don't walk to work".

As for the absence of an article, in the sentence "I have no car", the word "no" is essentially performing the same grammatical function as "a" in "I have a car". "a" means one, "no" means zero, you don't want to say "one" and "zero" because they contradict each other. But perhaps I'm appealing too much to logic; idioms often defy logic.

Afterthought: what about "I haven't a clue."? Not to mention "I haven't the faintest idea."? I think we just have to dismiss those as irregular.


"I have no car" is more likely to be used to negate an unjustified assumption, such as "Do you drive a 4x4?", or "Would you drive me to the airport?".

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