## "No birds can play chess" - shoudn't it have a singular noun?

2

1

I read this as an example in Swan's book. It looks a bit strange as I'd expect a singular noun especially if the sentence begins with no.

Compare -

No computers can work without being programmed.
No computer can work without being programmed.

Is putting plural noun change the meaning? To me, it should be a singular noun as we are talking about not even one computer can work without being programmed.

It's obvious that not even one bird can play chess, why plural then? Shouldn't it be ...

No bird can play chess

3This is a good question, but person(s) and people(s) are a bit of a special case when it comes to pluralization. You might want to pick a more regular example to contrast with. – snailplane – 2014-03-11T22:04:57.807

1

It's a very interesting question. And there is no meaning difference between "no + singular noun" and "no + plural noun".

Example -

1. No beggars were allowed in the King's court premises.
2. No beggar was allowed in the King's court premises.

There is no difference in meaning between these two sentences, but notice how the main verb (here "allow") changes depending on the noun after "no", in this case "beggar".

With countable noun, "no + plural noun" is much more common than "no + singular noun". Though both form is correct and well accepted.

Example -

1. Come winter, and you will find no leaves in trees.
2. Come winter, and you will find no leaf in trees.

Sentence no. 1 is more widely used than sentence no. 2. Though both are correct and used, and bear no difference in meaning.

So, it's basically a call of style, and one's personal choice, but in some cases it depends on contexts and in those cases one is correct over the other.

Example -

1. He was left with no wife and no children. (see after "no" both a singular noun ("wife") and a plural noun ("children") is used. As normally a man has only one wife, so considering this it's advisable to use "no wife" here)

1When using the singular, there's another possible construction: Come winter, and you will not find a leaf in the trees. – J.R. – 2014-03-26T15:46:37.527

0

Lets see the examples below-

“No persons are more frequently wrong than those who will not admit they are wrong.”

and

Can we rephrase No persons are more frequently wrong than those who will not admit they are wrong. to indicate single person? – SparKot – 2014-03-11T08:27:31.417