3
  • Don't run.
  • Don't talk loud.

When you unite the two sentences, which of the two below would be the more appropriate?

  1. Don't run and talk loud.
  2. Don't run or talk loud.

I have another question. How do you unite two imperatives when one is positive and the other negative?

  • Don't talk.
  • Do your homework.

If I simply unite the two with an "and", it would be

  1. Don't talk and do your homework?

But doesn't it sound like you are not allowed to either talk or do your homework?

What do you say if you want to say more two imperatives when one or more of them are negative?

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  • 5
    "Don't talk loudly" Commented May 26, 2023 at 13:28
  • 2
    @KateBunting: don't be such a stickler! "Stop talking so loud" is something that I can imagine hearing from many a native speaker, including myself.
    – TonyK
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 22:34
  • 1
    @TonyK Which region are you from? I tend to associate that form with American English, not with British English.
    – gidds
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 9:17

2 Answers 2

6

Sentence 2 is better; it means you shouldn't do either of those things. Using and means you shouldn't do them together, like "don't eat and talk."

"Don't run and don't talk loud" is also acceptable, usually for extra emphasis on each individual thing.

You're right that sentence 3 is ambiguous. The meaning would usually be clear when spoken aloud, but the simplest way to remove any doubt is to reverse the order:

Do your homework and don't talk.

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  • 1
    It might bear emphasizing further that, while 3 is ambiguous, the alternate meaning is entirely different from the one OP was worried about: that they shouldn't be done together further carries the implication that either is fine (even encouraged) alone. Commented May 28, 2023 at 1:21
  • @UnrelatedString That's true. Commented May 28, 2023 at 2:47
5

To combine two negative imperatives into a single imperative phrase, use "or". This means either action on its own is unacceptable. If one action or the other on its own is acceptable, like just running but not talking loud, then use "and":

Don't run or talk loud.

To combine a negative imperative with a positive imperative, use "and":

Don't talk, and do your homework.

Two separate sentences is more natural:

Don't talk. Do your homework.

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  • 1
    Don't talk and do your homework can mean: Don't do both together.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:59
  • 2
    @Lambie Thanks for the catch. I've added a comma.
    – gotube
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 19:17
  • If both actions done together simultaneously is unacceptable, then use and but without a comma. Can't walk and chew gum (at the same time). To be completely unambiguous that they can do neither, use nor. Can't walk nor chew gum. That way there's no comma to misplace or forget.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 22:28

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