In order to compare them, I wrote below sentences:

  1. Reading books is the solution not watching TV [a moral advice].
  2. Reading books is the solution no watching TV [a moral advice].
  3. I considered not going to that party.
  4. I considered no going to that party

I know that no is used with noun phrases and we must use not in the other situations. The question is that a gerund (phrase) acts as a noun (phrase), but I do not think the second and fourth sentences are correct. Perhaps, because my ears are more familiar with the not+verb+ing due to the fact that I see negative present progressive more often. I am not sure, would you help me

Added Information: In order to be more specific, I changed gerunds to gerund phrases and noun to noun phrase.

  • 1. Reading books is the solution to not watching TV. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 10:34
  • 2 and 4 are incorrect. We just don't use no in this context. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 10:35
  • @AlanCarmack So the generalization that I previously faced in grammar lessons seem to be wrong, "We use no before a noun phrase". Or considering a gerund as a noun phrase is a fatal error
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 10:36
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    In Modern English grammar verb + ing is categorized into three classes - 1. Gerundial noun (you can use no with it), 2. Gerund-Participle form of verb 3. Participle adjectives. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 11:32
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    @Cardinal They are not same thing. But see I have written that line in a bracket after Gerundial Noun to mean that no can be used with only Gerundial Nouns. In traditional grammar you have gerund and participle, but in modern grammar you will get only Gerund Participle. I have mentioned verb + ing can be classified into three distinct classes. It will help avoiding ambiguity. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 11:48

4 Answers 4


Consider the following:

There was no scaling that steep cliff.

Going around the mountain was the sane choice, not scaling that steep cliff.

The first means that the cliff was impossible to scale. The second simply refers to the action of scaling as a non-choice, a thing that exists but which is rejected.

There was no reasoning with them.

It was impossible to reason with them.

no + the -ing form denies the very existence of the -ing nominal.

It is used with existential statements.

not + the -ing form accepts the existence of the -ing nominal, but negates its presence here (in this context).

He said he liked fishing, not hunting.

He thought fishing was acceptable, but said there should be no hunting.

He did not see them off:

His not seeing them off on their journey made them sad.

It was impossible to see them off:

He was in another country on a business trip. There was no seeing them off.

  • That is why your examples revolves around "to be" and "there be". I mean you said we should use no to reject any possibility of existence. Thank you
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 12:55
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    The lifeguard wanted (there to be) no running at the swim club pool. I will try to think of a sentence where no + -ing is not existential.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 13:18
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    @TRomano and you could end up with the same thing Man_From_India's suggested: gerundial nouns. ;-) Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 15:13
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    It might be worth adding that no + gerund is also used to prohibit actions (I'm not sure if this counts as the imperative mood or not). E.g., "No Smoking" Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 17:20
  • @ToddWilcox Even that is existential, though. The fuller sentence is, "No smoking is permitted, given that passive verbs are really copulatives with the past participle.
    – user32753
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 23:01

In modern English grammar, verb + ing is catogarized into three classes:

  • Gerundial Noun

  • Gerund-Participle

  • Participle Adjective

So whether no or not will come immediately before a verb + ing will depend on which class the ing form of verb falls into. Let's make it more clear: it's only before Gerundial Noun that no occurs.

So it boils down to identifying the class of verb + ing. If we know which class they are in, we can easily tell whether no or not will be correct before it.

1. No hunting is allowed here. [Gerundial Noun]

2. He is the host today, and he is entertaining his guests. [Gerund-Participle form of verb]

3. He is good at entertaining the guests. [Gerund-Participle form of verb]

4. It was an entertaining show. [Participle Adjective]

5. The show is entertaining. [Ambiguous]

First we will see the difference between a Gerundial Noun and Gerund-Participle form of verb, later we will focus on the difference between Gerund-Participle form of verb and Participle Adjectives.

Gerundial Noun vs Gerund Participle form of verb:

Both Gerundial Noun and Gerund-Participle has the structure of verb + ing. Here's the difference -

  • When Gerund-Participle is formed from transitive verb + ing, it normally takes a Noun Phrase (NP) object, but a Gerundial Noun formed from the same verb don't take NP complement.

Hunting the rhinos is a crime. [Hunting is a Gerund-Participle of verb, it takes a NP - the rhinos]

Hunting of rhino is not allowed here. [Hunting here is a Gerundial Noun, and hence it doesn't take a NP complement. It however takes a Prepositional Phrase (PP) as complement - of rhino]

  • A Gerund-Participle of verb can take predicative complement but a Gerundial Noun can't.

I am surprised at being asked about such thing.

Here being is not a Gerundial Noun, it's a Gerund-Participle form of verb, because it takes a predicative complement after it.

  • Modifier - Gerundial Nouns can be modified by an adjective, but not by an adverb. On the other hand a Gerund-Participle is modified by an adverb.

Ali was ordered to be hanged for mercilessly killing two innocent students. [killing here is a Gerund-Participle of verb, and it's modified by an adverb - mercilessly.]

Ali was ordered to hanged for merciless killing of two innocent students. [killing here is a Gerundial Noun and it's being modified by an adjective - merciless.]

  • Determiner - The and other comparable determinatives occur with Gerundial Nouns, but not with Gerund-Participle of verb.

Students, concentrate on your lesson. No talking among yourselves. [Here talking is a Gerundial Noun and it takes a determinative - no - before it.]

Everyone believes Messi's decision of retirement from International football is an impulsive one, and it resulted from the shattering of hopes. [shattering here is a Gerundial Noun, and determinative - the - can easily sit before it.]

  • Plural inflection - Gerundial Noun can have plural inflection, but a Gerund-Participle can never have.

The killings of birds ... [Here killing is a Gerundial Noun]

*Killings the birds is not acceptable. [Here killing is a Gerund-Participle of verb, and hence no plural inflection is allowed.]

Gerund-Participle form of verb vs Participle Adjective:

  • Normally Gerund-Participle form of verb can take NP complement, but Participle Adjectives don't.

The whole experience was frightening. [Here frightening is a Participle Adjective.]

Reading only textbooks wouldn't help. [Here reading is a Gerun-Participle of verb, and it takes a NP - only textbooks as a complement.]

  • The word - seem - can take Participle Adjective after it.

The show seemed entertaining. [Here entertaining is a Participle Adjective.]

  • Participle Adjective can be modified by very and too.

The show was very entertaining. [Entertaining here is a Participle Adjective.]

Hybrid Construction -

Stop constant mixing the conflicting ideas.

What mixing is here? It takes a NP - the conflicting ideas - as complement. At the same time it's being modified by an adjective - constant. In one hand it's a Gerund-Participle of verb, but on the other hand it's a Gerundial Noun. This type of construction is called Hybrid construction. The sentence quoted above with hybrid construction is marginally accepted. But the sentence below is widely accepted one -

There is no denying the fact.

This denying taking NP - the fact. In that respect it's a Gerund-Participle form of verb. On the other hand it takes a determiner no just like a Gerundial Noun. such use of no is normally restricted to existential constructions with there.

Some sentences people here asked which they were not sure why no or not comes before verb + ing -

  • I'm surprised at not being asked about it.

We have already seen that Gerund-Participle form of verb can take a predicative complement. Here being took a predicative complement - asked about it. Here being is a Gerund-Participle form of verb and hence not comes before it.

  • Now I understand that not going to the party was a big mistake.

Let's try to insert a predicative complement with going in that sentence. What about poorly dressed? So the sentence would look like this - *Now I understand that (not) **going* to the party poorly-dressed was a big mistake.* So here also going is a Gerund-Participle form of verb and hence not is correct.

  • His not seeing them off made them sad.

Here seeing take a NP - them off. There is no doubt but that seeing here is a Gerund-Participle form of verb. So not is correct.

  • The best thing about a holiday is not working.

Here working don't take any complement. But try inserting an adverb with it. The best thing about holiday is working slowly. As working is being modified by an adverb, it's an indication that working here is a Gerund-Participle of verb. So not is acceptable.

  • Walking but not running was done today.

I don't like to cite this example when explaining verb + ing and whether no or not would come before it. Because this sentence contains ellipsis. The full version of the sentence would be - Walking was done today, but running was not done. This sentence is similar to Bob came, but Hary did not come. => Bod came, but not Hary.

  • (+1) I learned other classification: gerund phrase, present participle, and adjective, I think you went farther. I mean you consider two different type of gerund phrases: gerundial noun and gerund participle. I have never seen such categorization so far. BTW, thank you for the answer
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 18:06
  • @Cardinal I have completed my answer. Please read it. If any confusion, reply me back. Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 16:27
  • 1
    I didn't read it yet. I just want to thank you for your contributions to this question. I really appreciate that. Now, I'm going to read the answer.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 16:35
  • So, using your techniques, one can distinguish between the correct usage of no and not. Especially, using an adverb and NP complement. It was really helpful. But, as a learner I think I couldn't even use such complex sentences currently and I think the existential case is the most common case for me in which I would use no +gerund. But, I think this answer can help many others (Or probably me in near future). Many Thanks
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 17:50
  • @Araucaria but most hybrid constructions are marginally accepted except the existential sentence with there. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 0:17

Gerunds are nouns. Participles are modifiers. Both are th base verb + ing.

No modifies nouns (it's an adjective/determiner) and not modifies verbs or other participles (it's an adverb).

Modifiers can follow to be and a few other verbs because these are copular verbs.

No walking was done today.

I tried to find the girl not walking.

I was not walking today.

Not walking was done today (wrong).

It can be complicated. But generally if the -ing word is not right in front of a verb, then it's probably a modifier.

Not walking, but running was done today. (This is okay, not walking is a phrase that technically modifies the entire rest of the sentence I think.)

Running, not walking, was done today. (Not walking qualifies running)

No file cleaning but deleting was done today. (This works only because deleting is a type of cleaning. But deleting is the modifier of the noun cleaning.)

  • So "Not/No walking your dog everyday is not a good thing" - "No" or "Not"? Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 16:04
  • @Man_From_India In that case, not is correct. Also, everyday and every day are two different things. In your example, every day is correct and everyday isn't. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 17:22
  • @ToddWilcox thanks for correcting me. But this answer says "gerund is a noun and participles are modifier, and both are the base verb + ing". In the sentence I mentioned in my previous comment, "walking" is not a modifier. Then it has to be a gerund according to the logic of this answer and if that's true it's a noun and it naturally should take no before it in that sentence also. Isn't it? Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 23:27
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    @ToddWilcox That's okay, but does it really help a learner whose native language is not English? Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 6:21
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    "Gerund are nouns" <---. Lawrence, that's not correct. Gerunds are gerund-participle forms of verbs that are fulfilling the same function as noun phrases often do. So they are verb forms that are busy being Subjects or Objects or Complements of prepositions. They are still verbs. Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 8:24

There's some serious confusion in your question and, accordingly, in some of the answers as well. And all the confusion lies in the fact that your logic is seriously misguided and flawed.

The first "wrong" premise: "No" is used with noun phrases and we must use "not" in the other situations.

The second "wrong" premise: A gerund acts as a noun.

The "wrong" conclusion: Therefore, "no" should be used with a gerund.

In order to show that the first premise is wrong, here are counterexamples where "not" is used with a noun phrase, "no" non-noun phrases.

(a) Not all usage notes in dictionaries are reliable.

(b) The conclusion is no better than the premises.

And here is a counterexample to the second premise that a gerund acts as a noun.

(c) Reading books is the solution, not watching TV.

Yes, that's your own example, except for the comma before "not." Here, 'reading' and 'watching' are both gerunds. Now, do they both act as a noun? If so, "reading books" and "watching TV" both must be compound nouns, as in "English books" and "LED TV". Unfortunately, though, neither "reading books" nor "watching TV" can be considered a compound noun in your example. So it's inherently wrong to say that a gerund acts as a noun.

I guess what you were trying to say was that a gerund phrase (such as "reading books" and "watching TV") acts as a noun phrase, which is entirely different from saying "a gerund acts as a noun."

Remember, if either of the two premises is wrong, you can never obtain the right logical conclusion. So, unless you can prove that both the two premises are right, your conclusion doesn't mean anything, leading only to more confusing answers.

  • @Cardinal You have not provided any reason why you think that "Not a, Not all, none, etc" are irrelevant. I suggest that there might be more to what you write off as irrelevant than meets the eye. Moreover, you haven't rebutted the fact that "no" can be used to negate not just noun phrases as shown in example (b).
    – JK2
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 10:30
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    @jk why no here, but not not in here - The conclusion is no better than the premises.? Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 12:47
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    @jk As you have mentioned that other answers are wrong, what's wrong with my answer? Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 12:48
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    @jk this answer doesn't help OP, I guess. All it does is make him more confused. You haven't explained anything. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 12:51
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    @JK2 you're somewhat right. But if that was the case, "grammar" wouldn't have come into existence in the first place. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 16:37

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