As you know, the word "similarity" can be both countable and uncountable. Based on this matter and whereas you can easily find some results for each case surfing the net, I have no idea surfing the net, which sentence bellow sounds more idiomatic and natural. I am wondering which sentence is correct:

1- They are like apples and oranges; there is no similarity between their personalities.
2- They are like apples and oranges; there are no similarities between their personalities.

Logically, #2 should be more idiomatic to me.

  • 1
    We usually say there's (singular) no difference in meaning, regardless of whether you use singular or plural in your examples referencing non-existent similarities. But in some other contexts we nearly always use plural: Because I have a cat, there are no birds in my garden (not normally ...there is no bird in my garden). Nov 6, 2020 at 16:14
  • Personally, I think there's a difference between apples and oranges (which have some similarities; inter alia, they're both "round" fruits) and chalk and cheese (which are totally different in practically every way). We use apples and oranges (or apples and pears from "stairs") when pointing out that someone has made an inappropriate comparison between things which are too different to be "usefully" compared. But we use chalk and cheese to stress how extremely different two things are (they're so different it's unlikely anyone would try to compare them). Nov 6, 2020 at 17:03
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    ...so the two "standard collocations" are along the lines of 1: You're trying to compare apples and oranges (inappropriate comparison) and 2: They're as different as chalk and cheese (as different as it's possible to be). You'll rarely if ever encounter the "opposite" versions 1b: You're trying to compare chalk and cheese and 2b: They're as different as apples and oranges. Nov 6, 2020 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


Don't lean too heavily on logical decisions when dealing with English.

Both of your examples are well-written, and perfectly normal usage. To my mind, your first example, using the singular form, is more common, but only slightly, and is a perfect example of how you can rewrite one sentence into another form.

  • You might say it's "arbitrary", but I think there is some "logic" to the fact that OP's example isn't actually very idiomatic (regardless of the singular/plural difference). In his context it's usually chalk and cheese (totally different) as opposed to apples and oranges (not sufficiently similar to justify making some context-specific comparison between them). Nov 6, 2020 at 17:22
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica I didn't say anything was 'arbitrary'.
    – MikeB
    Nov 7, 2020 at 19:22
  • One might say it's "arbitrary", then. But how else should we interpret your first sentence? Note that I didn't say there was necessarily any "logic" involved in choosing singular similarity or plural similarities in OP's context (I still haven't bothered to think that one through). The point I was making was simply that idiomatically speaking, OP should have used chalk and cheese rather than apples and oranges - and the reason for that is actually quite "logical", as well as being idiomatically well-established. Nov 8, 2020 at 14:19

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