Are "actually not" and "actually, no" interchangeable in any context?

FOR EXAMPLE: Tom: The Sun rotates around Earth Steve: Actually not, it's the other way round. or Actually, no, it's the other way round.

The natives I asked said that the latter is preferred. But they didn't say why. And one native says, e.g. that the sentence Is this sweater blue? can be replied to with both Actually not, it's red. and Actually, no; it's red.

So how to be able to tell when those expressions can be used?

  • 3
    Actually not is just a short way of saying Actually it does not or is not. Actually, no is just the normal answer No. Commented May 4, 2023 at 8:21
  • @Kate Bunting I feel like what you're saying means that when one can be use the other one can as well, right? Commented May 5, 2023 at 8:33
  • 1
    I don't find actually not very idiomatic. I think it would be more natural to say Actually it doesn't [rotate round the Earth] or it's not [blue]. Commented May 5, 2023 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


"No" can be a response to a question or an imperative statement in its own right:

-Can I have a drink?

"Not" is not meant to be used that way, although it may be occasionally used in a deliberately subversive way:

-Can I have a drink or not?
-Not. (this is not good grammar, but may be said for humourous, or sarcastic, emphatic effect.)

So, the correct word choice for your example is 'no', because it is a clause in its own right.

'No' and 'not' have specific uses and are not normally interchangeable.

We use no before a noun phrase.

eg "No swimming in the lake!"

We use not with any other phrase or clause.

eg "Swimming in the lake is not allowed".

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