A grammar book I am reading says in some cases 'no' = 'not a' or 'not any', and gives the following two examples:

(1) We had to walk home because there was no bus. (= there wasn't a bus)

(2) There were no shops open. (= there weren't any shops open)

Can I say 'We had to walk home because there were not any buses.' without changing the meaning of the first sentence? Similarly, can I say 'There wasn't a shop open.' instead of its plural version?

1 Answer 1


We had to walk home because there were not buses. -incorrect

This sentence is almost correct, but you need a determiner when referring to none of something. no and any are determiners, but not is an adverb.

We had to walk home because there were not any buses.
We had to walk home because there were no buses.

There wasn't a shop open

This sentence is correct, and emphasises that there wasn't even one shop open.

  • Thanks for pointing it out, I did omit 'any' before 'buses'. Actually I'd like to ask whether there is difference between 'there were not any buses' and 'there wasn't a bus'. when I would replace 'no' with 'not a' + a singular noun or 'not any' + its plural form in the first sentence. I'm not sure I've completely understood what you said. So, 'there was no bus', 'there wasn't a bus', and 'there weren't any buses' have the same meaning, and they could only differ in the degree of emphasis, couldn't they?
    – ing
    Sep 14, 2021 at 5:48
  • You might use the difference to indicate how many buses you were expecting. "There was no bus" -> you weren't expecting one, "There wasn't a bus" -> you were expecting one, but it didn't come. "There weren't any buses" -> you were expecting many buses, but there weren't any.
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 14, 2021 at 7:12

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