and or

Hello,

Do  the following two sentences both mean that Kent can speak neither English nor French? Or is one of them incorrect?

1. Kent cannot speak English and French.

2. Kent cannot speak English or French.

Does sentence 2 mean that Kent can speak either one, English or French?

Apple

 

Original Post
apple posted:

Do  the following two sentences both mean that Kent can speak neither English nor French? Or is one of the incorrect?

1. Kent cannot speak English and French.

2. Kent cannot speak English or French.

Does sentence 2 mean that Kent can speak either one, English or French?

Hi, Apple,

Sentence (2) means that Kent can't speak either of the two languages; he cannot speak English, and he cannot speak French.

Sentence (1) means that Kent can't speak both of the languages; it is not the case that Kent can speak both English and French. Sentence (1) is a sort of riddle.

apple posted:

So, sentence (1) means Ken can speak English only, but not French and vice versa.

You say Sentence (1) is a sort of riddle becuase it's unclear.

Correct?

Hello again, Apple,

No, sentence (1) means that it is not the case that Kent can speak both languages. Sentence (1) is compatible with the following possibilities:

  • Kent can speak English, but he can't speak French.
  • Kent can speak French, but he can't speak English.
  • Kent can't speak English, and he can't speak French.

Sentence (1) rules out one possibility and one possibility only:

  • Kent can speak English, and Kent can speak French.

That's why it means that it is not the case that Kent can speak both languages. It is a sort of riddle because it leaves the reader wondering which of the two languages he does speak, and whether he speaks either of them at all.

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