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Choose the right connectors for these 2 sentences:

  1. I like coffee and tea
  2. I don't like coffee or tea.

I wonder why they choose "and" for the first one and "or" for the second. Why not "and" for both?

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2 Answers 2

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If your intent is that you don't like either of them individually, then "or" is the correct conjunction.

If you say, "I don't like coffee and tea" it means you don't like both of them together, like both at the same time, or maybe in the same cup.

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They could have also used "and" in the second one, like this:

I don't like coffee and I don't like tea

But that's clumsy when it's already idiomatic to say the thing more succinctly:

I don't like coffee or tea.

Why does the second work? Shrug. It just does. Don't look for logical precision in natural language--especially one as messy as English. As @gotube pointed out, in everyday use, "I don't like coffee and tea" risks ambiguity; it might mean that the person is fine with coffee on its own, and also with tea on its own, but not with both at the same time.

Of course that same problem could, in theory, also apply to the first sentence. That is, someone could read it as meaning that the person likes coffee and tea if and only if they are served together. But they'd be wrong to read it that way. Why? Again, shrug; they just would.

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