What are the differences between Neither...nor and None of... and subject + do not, will not...etc?

I feel these two structures mean the same and that the latter is more straightforward. In other words, I think Example 2, Example 4, and Example 6 are easier to understand. What do you think?

Example 1

Neither John, Mary, nor Joseph will help me fix the problem.

Example 2

John, Mary, and Joseph will not help me fix the problem.

Example 3

Neither the government nor the private tech companies will invest in that type of technology.

Example 4

The government or the private tech companies will not invest in that type of technology.

Example 5

None of my friends will give me advice about how to pass the exam.

Example 6

My friends will not give me advice about how to pass the exam.

  • 2
    (2) implies that John, Mary and Joseph are a team who would be expected to collaborate in helping you. (4) is not idiomatic; a negative statement about two things must include neither...nor. Jul 29, 2021 at 18:25
  • It is very hard for me to imagine that you can't see the difference between neither/nor and none of. They mean completely different things and you have not looked them up, I fear.
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2021 at 18:42
  • @Lambie Sorry for the wrong title. I have corrected it. The title is: What are the differences between "Neither...nor and None of..." and "subject + do not, will not...etc"?
    – vincentlin
    Jul 29, 2021 at 18:49
  • What is your native language? Is is Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian or Roumanian??
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2021 at 19:26
  • @Lambie I speak Mandarin Chinese if this information helps answer my question.
    – vincentlin
    Jul 29, 2021 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


We use 'or' (and 'nor', when speaking in negative terms) to show that list items are alternatives and not items being collected together. "None of" also treats people/items as individuals because 'none' represents zero, so it shows they have been counted individually. By phrasing your sentences without these, you lose the sense that the people and things mentioned are individual items.

Your proposed alternative sentences do not mean the same as the originals, and are confusing:

  • Example 2 would mean that the 3 people had refused to help you collectively, rather than as individuals.

  • Example 4 could mean that 'the government' and 'private tech companies' are alternatives that might apply when the original sentence means neither.

  • Example 6 sounds like your friends have collectively refused to help you.

  • Thanks for your answer. I am not sure about the meaning of your comment about Example 4 "alternative terms for the same thing." Does Example 4 have the same meaning as Example 3?
    – vincentlin
    Jul 30, 2021 at 10:00
  • I found one example online: "But you must make sure your application forms are sent in. Your employer or the government will not apply for you." It seems that it means "Neither your employer nor the government will apply for you." So the meaning changes according the context?
    – vincentlin
    Jul 30, 2021 at 10:06
  • 1
    @vincentlin I'll try and explain it better. So, an alternative means you have one or the other. A common example is "your parent or guardian", which suggests that a child would have either a parent or some other kind of guardian that is not a parent but acts like one. A child wouldn't have a parent and a guardian, because if you have a parent that acts for you, you don't need a guardian. When you omit "neither", it sounds like you're presenting alternatives, but what you actually mean is you could ask both the government and tech companies and they would both refuse to invest.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 30, 2021 at 11:20

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