Do you know how to use the words no and none correctly in English conversation? How about the prefix non~? Read this post, watch the videos, and soon you will be using these words like a native speaker.
NO is a determiner that means: not one; not any; not a – NO is used with a noun.
“There were no cars in the parking lot.”NONE is a pronoun that means: not one of a group of people or things; not any – NONE is used without a noun.
“How many cars were there?” “None.”
Watch the videos embedded in this post to learn more about this grammar. Improve your English listening skills as you go.
No or None
|The determiner NO means ~ not one; not any; not a – NO is used with a noun|
|“The sign says no dogs allowed.”|
(Not one dog/not any dog is allowed here. The noun dogs follows the determiner NO.)
|The pronoun NONE means ~ not one of a group of people or things; not any – NONE is used without a noun|
|“The donuts were gone when I got to work this morning. There were none left.”|
(Not one of the donuts was left. There is no noun following the pronoun NONE.)
How to use the word NO in a sentence
NO can be a determiner that means ~ not one; not any; not a
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries – No
What is a determiner?
A determiner is a word (such as the, some, my, etc.) that comes before a noun to show how the noun is being used
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries – Determiner
Determiners are used before nouns.
No is a determiner. No is used before nouns.
Please read the following examples:
- “In Canada, there are no stores open on Christmas day.”
= there aren’t any stores open. (Stores is the plural form of the countable noun store)
- “After I got to the hotel, I looked in my suitcase. I had toothpaste but no toothbrush.”
= I didn’t have a toothbrush. (Toothbrush is a noun)
- “It was 1:00 am when I left the party so there was no bus service. I had to take a taxi home.”
= there wasn’t a bus. (Bus service is a noun phrase)
- “The sign said no dogs allowed.”
= There can’t be any dogs here. (Dogs is the plural form of the countable noun dog)
How to use the word NONE in a sentence
NONE is a pronoun that means ~ not one of a group of people or things; not any
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries – None
We use none without a noun.
Please read the following examples:
- “The donuts were gone when I got to work this morning! There were none left.”
＝there weren’t any donuts.
- “My school needs to buy some more supplies. There is a box of whiteboard markers but none of them work.”
= not one marker in the box of markers works.
- “Chris invited us to get a drink after work but everyone was too tired. None of us went.”
= not one person in our group went with Chris to get a drink.
None is a pronoun so it can be used by itself as an answer to a question.
A: “How much money do you have?”
B: “None. I spent everything I had at the coffee shop.”
5 Common English Expressions with NO
1) In no time = very quickly
A: Hey Jack, you got home early today.
B: There was no traffic on the highway today so I got home in no time.
2) All work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy) = it’s not good to work too much and not have any time to relax
This proverb is very old. We often shorten the expression and just say All work and no play when we need to take a break or advise someone else to take a break.
*We often say “you know what they say“ before we use a proverb. “They“ means people in general. People often say this.
A: I heard you are going on vacation next week.
B: You know what they say ~ “All work and no play.”
3) No joke = very serious, or not easy
“We will play Italy in the semi-final game tomorrow. That team is very strong, they are no joke.”
“Many climbers have been attempting to climb Mt. Everest in recent years. People with little experience need to take it seriously. Climbing that mountain is no joke.”
*In 2019, 891 people climbed Mt. Everest (Source) and 11 died (Source).
4) close but no cigar – When someone is nearly successful but not quite, we can use this expression. This expression comes from old carnivals where if you won a game like hitting the target in a shooting gallery you would win a cigar as a prize.
A: I think buying lottery tickets is a waste of money.
B: Last week I had 4 of the 6 winning numbers on my ticket so I was close.
A: You need to match at least 5 numbers to win a prize. Close but no cigar.
5) Second to none = The best. Better than everything else.
“My mom bakes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. They’re second to none.”
“Diego Maradona was an Argentinian soccer player. Many soccer fans feel that he was the greatest footballer ever, he was second to none.”
None Vs. Nonetheless
The pronoun NONE means: not one of a group of people or things; not any – NONE is used without a noun.
“None of my friends are in the class.”
The adverb nonetheless means: despite this fact. This meaning is similar to even though.
“You didn’t complete the class? You may still get a credit nonetheless.”
“The global economy is not good right now. Nonetheless, some experts think now is the perfect time to invest.” – Even though the economy is not good, it is a good time to invest.
Would you like to learn more ways to use the phrase “even though“? Visit my detailed blog post here: Although, Though, Even Though (25 real examples + Free PDF) with video!
2 Common English Expressions with NONE
Jack of All Trades – Master of None
This English expression is used to describe a person who has dabbled in many skills, rather than gaining expertise by focusing on one.
Source: Wikipedia Jack of All Trades
- My friend Peter can do many things, but not he’s really great at any of them. Jack of all trades master of none.
Do you know what the verb dabble means?
dabble – verb – to take part in a sport, an activity, etc. but not very seriously
“She is a talented musician but happy to just dabble.”
*NOTE – If we shorten this expression it can have a positive meaning.
- “My Dad built a bed for my nephew and he can fix his own car. He is a Jack of all trades.”
If we don’t add “master of none” to the end we are making a positive statement about someone’s ability to do many different things.
None of your business
None of your business means it’s not your concern, or it has nothing to do with you so you shouldn’t worry about it. This is a common expression used when someone asks questions that are too personal.
- A: I saw you talking to James this morning, what were you talking about?”
B: None of your business. That was a private conversation.”
- “My relationship with her is none of your business.”
Refresh the grammar and improve your English listening skills – Video 1
None OF (something)
Remember that none is a pronoun so we don’t use it with a noun. However, we can say none of something.
Please look at the following examples:
“My brother has many sweaters. There are 6 sweaters in our closet and none of them are mine.”
After none of we can use plural countable nouns [none of the stores], a pronoun, [none of them] or uncountable nouns [none of my furniture].
Plural means more than one – none of the cars, sweaters, people, none of them, those etc.
Do you want to know more about using singular and plural nouns? You will find lots of helpful examples here: Singular and Plural nouns – 50 examples (worksheet PDF)
- “I want to go to the mall on Christmas, but none of the
- stores are open.” -The word stores is plural.
“I invited 4 friends from my soccer team to my party but none of them are coming. They’re playing in a school tournament on Saturday.” – Them = 4 friends (more than one)
We can also use uncountable nouns with none of.
- “We just received feedback from our customer survey. Unfortunately, none of it is good.”
Feedback is also an uncountable noun. Feedback has no plural form.
- “There was a big earthquake in March, luckily none of my furniture was damaged.”
*Furniture is an uncountable noun. Furniture has no plural form.
Advanced grammar – None of is or are?
Here is a grammar puzzle I had to research. Should we say None of my friends is coming or are coming? The answer surprised me!
None of is or are? Quick answer – both versions are used. The definition of NONE has a plural and a singular form. None can mean not one (singular) and none can mean not any (plural).
Look at this grammar:
- Not one of my friends is coming. – None of my friends is coming.
- Not any of my friends are coming. – None of my friends are coming.
In this example, I prefer to use the pronoun NONE as a plural –
None of my friends are coming.
When I type ~ None of my friends is coming ~ into my computer, my grammar software wants to correct it.
I’m not saying this is correct! Some people feel that NONE is a contraction of NOT ONE so it should always be treated as singular. For me “None of my friends are coming.” is natural but both uses are okay.
Remember when none of is used with an uncountable noun we have to use singular grammar.
None of my furniture was broken. *Not
None of the feedback is good. *Not
Refresh the grammar and improve your English listening skills – Video 2
Non or None
NONE is a pronoun that means: not one of a group of people or things; not any
“NONE of my friends were there.”
NON is a prefix that means: not – The prefix NON is used with nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
“All of my friends are NONsmokers.”
The prefix non~ can show a “lack of‟ a quality: for example, a non-smoker is someone who does not smoke.
Here are 10 examples of words with the prefix non~
nonsense – adjective – doesn’t make sense
- “This idea is nonsense, it will never work.”
non-fiction – adjective – true
- “I prefer to read books that are non-fiction.”
non-alcoholic – adjective – contains no alcohol
- “Do you serve any non-alcoholic drinks?”
nonchalant – adjective – relaxed and free from worry or concern
- “Mike seems very nonchalant today, even though he has to make a big presentation. I would be so nervous!”
nondescript – adjective – not special or unique
- “When I worked as a stuntman, many of my roles were nondescript. This means I wasn’t a stunt double for a specific actor, just an ordinary person who does some action.”
nonfat – adjective – (of food) contains little or no fat
- “I always have nonfat yogurt with my cereal for breakfast.”
non-flammable – adjective – difficult to light on fire
- “F-1 race car drivers wear non-flammable driving suits when they race.”
nonprofit – adjective – not for the purpose of making money
- “I spent 3 years in university volunteering at a nonprofit community center.”
non-smoker – adjective – someone who does not smoke
- “Kate quit smoking 2 years ago. She is a proud non-smoker now!”
non-smoking – adjective – a place or area where smoking is not allowed
- “I always get a table in the non-smoking section of the cafe. I don’t like smoke.”
The prefix NON~ advanced grammar
- from academia.edu article “Observations on the pejorative aspect of the English negative prefix non“
This quote above simply means that: We use the prefix non~ to describe an opposite when the meaning must be clear and easy to understand. Compare:
Nonliving VS. Dead
The word nonliving is the direct opposite of living, the word dead can also mean nonliving, but the adjective dead can only be used to describe something that was once alive.
- Glass is a nonliving material.
We can say that glass is a nonliving material but we wouldn’t say it is dead because it was never alive. Nonliving is a better choice in this sentence because the meaning is clear.
How to use Nobody/no-one – Nothing – Nowhere
These words [Nobody/no-one – nothing – nowhere] can be used at the beginning of a sentence or you can use them by themselves as answers to questions. (Just like none.)
Please read the following examples:
- “I knocked on the door but no-one answered. Maybe nobody was home.”
Not one person was at home.
- “I opened the store early today but nobody came until after 10:00.”
Not one person came to the store before 10:00.
- A: “What did you do yesterday?”
B: “Nothing. I was too tired.”
I didn’t do anything.
- “Nothing is happening this weekend. Everyone is staying home because of the quarantine.”
Not a single thing is happening due to the quarantine.
- A: “Where will you go during the summer holiday?”
B: “Nowhere. I will stay home and save money.”
I will not go anywhere.
- “This road goes nowhere.”
This road doesn’t go anywhere.
Be careful of this common mistake!
We don’t use nobody/nothing/nowhere with a negative verb – isn’t/didn’t/can’t etc.
Look at these examples:“
- I saw nothing.” NOT
I didn’t see nothing.
- “I may change jobs this summer but I need to keep it a secret. No-one can know.”
No-one can’t know.
These incorrect examples are called double negatives. Sometimes double negatives can be used in casual conversation, but not always. Learn more about Double Negatives here. LINK
Common English Expressions with Nowhere and Nothing:
out of nowhere ~ appearing suddenly, without warning.
- “It was a nice day and suddenly dark clouds and rain came out of nowhere.”
- “When we were camping a bear came out of nowhere and scared us!”
Better than NOTHING.
If something is better than nothing it means it’s not exactly what you wanted or needed but it is still better than not having anything at all.
- “I didn’t have any time to exercise this morning so I just did a quick 15-minute workout at lunchtime. It’s better than nothing I guess.”
Refresh the grammar and improve your English listening skills – Video 3
Conclusion – NO, NONE and NON~
Remember! We use no with a noun.
- “There are no donuts!”
Donuts are the noun in this sentence.
And none without a noun.
- “There are none left!”
This sentence only uses the pronoun NONE.
Non~ is a prefix used added to nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
- “I hope those donuts are nonfat.”
The prefix is telling us that there is little to no fat in the donuts.
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