I'm always confused with that issue. Should I say

She is no student


She is not a student

Or are both of them equal? If they are, what is the difference between them?

  • 1
    If you use "not", you need an article: "she is not a student". Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 17:46
  • I forgot to put the article 'a'. I edited it thanks to you. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 18:35
  • You might also hear "She is no student of mine," indicating that she may be a student, but the speaker does not teach her.
    – skeggse
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 18:55
  • 3
    Famously: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 19:01
  • 2
    @SF "emphatic" (with force), not "empathic" (with empathy). :-) Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 12:35

8 Answers 8


You can say either one, but they have different effects.

"She is not a student" is a simple statement of fact. "She is no student" is usually an emphatic statement, which only really makes sense when you're denying somebody else's implication that she's a student. For example, if one professor says, "A student asked me a question about [some crackpot theory] after yesterday's lecture," another professor might say, "She's no student! She's just some woman who slips into lectures so she can ask her crazy questions." You could also use it figuratively, to mean that she's such a bad student that she doesn't deserve the name: "Mary? Ha! She's no student. I mean, she pays her fees and comes to lectures but have you ever seen her actually study anything? I haven't!"

  • Irish here. I doubt it. I'd find that construction equally emphatic, and would be very surprised to hear it used for simple negation.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 11:53
  • I'd perhaps emphasise your first sentence to state that while both are valid, they are very different usages. You kind of say this, but "They have different effects" is a little soft, IMO.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 14:51
  • In a famous example of this, Dan Quayle, while running for VP, would routinely say that he had as much experience as Jack Kennedy did when he was running for president. To which Lloyd Bentsen responded "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
    – BobRodes
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 5:50
  • Four years later, 81-year-old Ronald Reagan made fun of this after Bill Clinton compared himself to Thomas Jefferson, saying "This fellow they've nominated claims he's the new Thomas Jefferson. Well, let me tell you something. I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And governor, you're no Thomas Jefferson."
    – BobRodes
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 5:51

You can say "She is no student."

This "style" is usually used for emphasis.

She is no student! She's an imposter, just a journalist trying to get her story!"

You cannot say "She is not student". Here you need an article. Your edit makes your example correct.

She is not a student.

  • 2
    The question was updated to correct the "not a student" part. Looks like that was a typo. You may need to revise your answer accordingly.
    – Moby Disk
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 21:22

The first sentence can mean that she is not a student despite seeming like one. Or that she did a bad job at being a student. This is a bit of a strong statement.

The second sentence is not grammatical. It should be

She is not a student.

The meaning of this sentence is self-explanatory.

To sum up, the two sentences do not mean identical things.

  • 1
    The first could also have a meaning of "While she is enrolled in the university, her behaviors are unbecoming of a student" or "With her behavior, I wouldn't expect her to be a student for long". You're right that either way it's a strong (and particularly offensive) statement.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:18

The two statements have very different connotations. "She is not a student" simply means what it says: "she is not a student, she is employed as a cleaner". While "She is no student" probably means something like "She might be registered as a student, but she's making no effort to study"

  • I already said all of that in my answer, two hours before you. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:45

I am an educated native speaker of American English. In both British English and American English, I believe, "She is no student" is usually a flippant judgment, while "She is not a student" does not imply any moral judgment, unless the judgment is implied by tone of voice.


"She is not a student" is just a statement, stating that she is not a student at all.
"She is no student" can mean different things, and is more empathic.

"She is no student" can mean that she does not study at all, she does not participate in projects, or even she does not even go to the school. It can generally mean "She does not act like a student" or "She is not a student".


She neither studies nor she does her homework. She is no student!


She hasn't ever written an essay, so she is no student.

But you can't say:

She hasn't ever written an essay, so she is not a student.


The two different sentences She is 'no' student or She is 'not' a student are different in their meaning. And can be used accordingly based on the context that you have.

1.She is 'no' student

This sentence means that someone is pretending like a student, who is actually not a student.

2.She is 'not' a student

This sentence is more clear and precise to say without any doubt that the person who is referred here (He or She), is not a student.

The following explanation will give you a short introductions to situations where these words are used.

The proper and formal pronunciation is to spell like:

  • She is not a student.

Difference between no and not

We can make a word, expression or clause negative by putting not before it.

  • I do not intend to resign.
  • Ask James, not his wife.
  • Not surprisingly, they got divorced within a couple of months.
  • You can come tomorrow, but not on Friday.

No is used in a different way. It is used with a noun or an –ing form to mean ‘not any’.

  • No students joined the program. (= There weren’t any students who joined the program.)
  • No man is perfect. (= There aren’t any perfect men.)
  • She has got no children. (= She hasn’t got any children.)
  • I have got no money to buy food. (= I haven’t got any money to buy food.)

In some cases the structures verb + not and no + noun can have similar meanings.

  • There wasn’t any reply. = There was no reply.


Complete the following sentences not or no.

1) We have ______ money.
2) It is ______ true.
3) He is ______ stupid.
4) She has got ______ friends.
5) She has ______ got any money.


1) We have no money.
2) It is not true.
3) He is no stupid.
4) She has got no friends.
5) She has not got any money.

  • This doesn't relate to not/no being used after the to be verb and before a noun, which is what this question was about.
    – v010dya
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 11:32
  • Praveen@ yes, it was. I ranked your answer up. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 11:38
  • 1
    You can say "He is no idiot", but "He is no stupid" would not be standard; "stupid" can be a noun in that way, but is rare.
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 14:11
  • 1
    Your opening statement makes it sound like "She is no student" is improper or informal, neither of which is true. The rest of your answer might be helpful to a learner, though.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 20:30
  • 1
    @PraveenG - Don't take downvoting so personally. It happens. And you haven't really lost reputation. You got one upvote (which gives you 10 points) and three downvotes (which gives you -6), so, in the end, you stilll gained reputation for your efforts.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 8:56

After I cheeked this issue on so called a professional book of grammar (see below) I found these things:

"Negative statements are formed with the help of 'not' and 'no'

NOT + verb, or + many / much / a lot of

NO + adjective, or + noun, or + negative short answer

"Guess the difference and give at least one contextual sentence: "She is not a student" 2. She is no student" end of quotation.

These things are from "English grammar for university students" (Harkiv 2010. p. 8)

Now, I don't understand the rull that "not" comes with verb etc. while in our case is not+ noun rather than not+ verb.

  • 3
    I don't see how this answers the question. You seem to be saying that you tried to find the answer in a textbook but didn't understand what it said. If so, you should ask about that in a new question. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 9:25
  • I see what was the problem in my comment. I edited it and maybe now it will be better and clearer for you. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 18:37

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