1

Consider this exchange between two people that I saw on TV: A has told B that none of B's colleagues like B. B comes back with a question and gets an answer:

B: Who doesn't like me?
A: Everyone!

Why did A say everyone? Should A not have said no one instead? Is it not the same as the choice between these sentences? :

Everyone doesn't like you.
No one likes you.

Interestingly enough, I found 48 hits for "everyone doesn't" in COCA, for instance:

  • Everyone does n't care.
    (If it were me, I would've said Not everyone cares or No one cares, depending on what I'd meant to say.)
  • Everyone doesn't have that luxury of another room.
    (...)
  • Tell me again why everyone doesn't just network into this meeting?
    (...)

Now, what's the story here? Are both options possible?

  • I'm not sure how the results in COCA are related to the response to the question Who doesn't like me?. In any case, Everyone doesn't do that and Not everyone does that are not the same. Everyone doesn't do that implies "nobody does that", while Not everyone does that implies "some may do that". – Damkerng T. Feb 15 '16 at 5:42
2

This is a good example of the difficulty that English has in dealing with negative sentences. In this case, the question

Who doesn't like me?

is asking us to identify the group of people who dislike the questioner. As you suggest

No one likes you.

would probably be the clearest answer, but the difficulty is that a single word response of nobody doesn't work. Here that would mean that

Nobody doesn't like you. (So everyone must like you.)

It's clumsy to say

Everyone doesn't like you.

and that's not something you'd hear in normal conversation, except as an intentionally awkward construction used to mock the person asking the question. It is best avoided in anything remotely formal and honestly in informal conversation as well. Especially for a person learning English, the assumption would likely be that you had made a mistake rather than that you were being clever.

That said, there is one case in which Everybody doesn't and nobody doesn't have become famous as part of an advertisement:

"Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee."
Later shortened to a jingle, "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee."

  • Very clear. Thanks. Do you find the short answer (Everyone!) here clumsy too? – Færd Feb 15 '16 at 6:15
  • And I assume that the advertisement means Although it's not true that everyone likes Sara Lee, but there's no one who dislikes it either; am I right? – Færd Feb 15 '16 at 6:15
  • What do you think of anyone as a response? – snailcar Feb 15 '16 at 15:47
  • @snailboat Honestly, I think it runs into the same sort of problem as "everyone." If you try to build a sentence with it, it just doesn't work properly. – Jason Patterson Feb 15 '16 at 21:05
  • 1
    @MJF I think that the meaning is more along the lines of "Everyone has dislikes, but nobody dislikes Sara Lee." – Jason Patterson Feb 15 '16 at 21:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.