Is there any difference between the following sentences (e.g. in emphasis), or are they effectively interchangeable?

Example 1:

We found no differences between their reports.
We did not find any differences between their reports.

Example 2:

I received no email.
I did not receive any email.

OBS: I am aware that similar questions have been asked before (e.g. here and here), but I didn't find any (or, I found no) satisfactory answer.

  • It's a stylistic choice whether to negate the noun (no email) or the verb (did not receive). In your context, the word any is effectively an optional "intensifying determiner" for the following noun in I did not receive [an, the, any, NOTHING] email. Sep 20, 2023 at 19:30
  • Because plural nouns usually go with the "zero article" (NOTHING), you'd either include optional intensifying any in the first example (the idiomatic default) or you wouldn't have any determiner at all. We did not find differences between their reports is less likely, but perfectly valid. But if no difference was found, that would more naturally be referenced in the singular anyway: We did not find a difference between their reports. Sep 20, 2023 at 19:39

1 Answer 1


Practically there is no difference, and it is just a peculiarity of English that there are two ways to negate "We found some differences".

Possibly "I've received no email" is marginally more formal and appropriate to written English, whereas "I haven't received any email" is spoken. But the difference in formality is marginal at most.

  • Hi! I upvoted your good answer. Is it wrong to write in an essay "I haven't received any email"? Sep 21, 2023 at 7:07
  • 1
    Per my comment under the question, any is an "intensifier". Note that email is like, say, payment, in that it can be a countable or uncountable noun. If I include the intensifier in I don't receive any payment for posting to ELL, that makes the assertion more "forceful". If that's the impression you want to give in your essay, include the intensifier. Just note that you don't have to include it. Sep 21, 2023 at 10:18
  • Yes, it would be fine in an essay.
    – James K
    Sep 21, 2023 at 19:31
  • @James K Thank you very much! Sep 22, 2023 at 8:51

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