I know "All doors will not open" means "not all doors will open", but I need to be very very alert to recognise this, otherwise I'll just think "all doors will remain closed".

Today in the London underground, I heard the announcement "The front two doors will not open"... and it actually means "both will remain closed".

My question is, does this "partial negation" construction "All ... do not ..." only apply when a sentence begins with "all","every"?

Edit: What about "Both front two door will not open"?

1 Answer 1


"All doors will not open" does not necessarily mean the same as "not all doors will open." From a strictly logical standpoint, "not all doors will open" is stating that the phrase "all doors will open" is false. It could refer to only some doors opening or zero doors opening. Practically speaking it would be used when some doors open and some remain closed.

There are multiple cases to examine, and I'll consider how each might be said in this case. Note that there are dozens of ways of phrasing each of these and that the London Underground probably has its own particular phrasing.

  1. Every door on the train opens.
    This would likely be said as, "All doors will open."

  2. Zero doors on the train open.
    This could be said in multiple ways. "No doors will open" or "All doors will remain closed" would be fairly reasonable.

  3. Some doors open, but some remain closed.
    This again could be said in multiple ways. "Not all doors will open," "Some doors will open," or "Some doors will not open." There are a bunch of other ways of constructing a sentence with this same meaning.

If the statement is that all of a category will (or will not) do X, then it is a statement about the properties of every member of that category. This would not be partial negation. In your example, "All doors will not open," means that zero doors will open. (Note that this is not idiomatically correct, but it would be understood.)

To rephrase the question you added in the edited portion, "Neither front door will open" or "The front two doors will not open" mean only that the front doors of the train will not open, but it implies that some other door on the train will, presumably those in the back.

  • Unfortunately language goes both direction. Being understood is one direction, understanding others is the other. I won't personally use "all doors will not open" to mean "some doors will be shut" as you stated. But native people speak like that and I need to understand them.
    – jf328
    Jun 8, 2015 at 15:05
  • As a native speaker, I would be confused if someone said "all doors will not open" and then some doors did open. If you are confused by a native speaker on this, it is perfectly valid to ask for clarification. I would.
    – TBridges42
    Aug 7, 2015 at 21:48

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