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Hi, teachers,

Mr @David, Moderator and Mr @Gustavo, Contributor

Sometimes I find it confusing when it comes to formal or informal usage of a grammar rule:

Does informal use mean that it is all the time wrong or does it mean it is OK to use?

for example, using "none" with a plural form of a verb or using "both", "all" in negative sentences as in:

None of my friends is here. vs None of my friends are here.

All students don't like maths. vs Not all students like maths. 

Can I get some help, sirs?

Last edited by ayman
Original Post
@ayman posted:
Sometimes I find it confusing when it comes to formal or informal usage of a grammar rule:

Does informal use mean that it is all the time wrong or does it mean it is OK to use?

Hello, Ayman—I think you might find it useful to think about this question in terms of formality and informality in your native language. Although I don't know what language your native language is, I feel confident in supposing that, whatever the language is, it probably has formal and informal expressions, and that their level of appropriateness will vary according to the formality or informality of the context of utterance. Speaking at a job interview is different from having a conversation with friends or family. Writing an e-mail or a text message to a friend is different from writing a letter to the president of a university. I would imagine that these differences also exist in your native language.

@ayman posted:
for example, using "none" with a plural form of a verb or using "both", "all" in negative sentences as in:


None of my friends is here. vs None of my friends are here.

Almost everybody uses "none" with a plural form of a verb, so you can do that in formal or informal language. However, if you wish to be hyper-correct, and to show the grammatically astute listener that you have studied English grammar, you can use "none" with a singular verb. I do when I am writing posts here.

@ayman posted:
All students don't like maths. vs Not all students like maths.

Both formulations are grammatically correct, and neither is more formal than the other. The only virtue that "Not all students like math" has that "All students don't like math" does not is that the former is unambiguous and the latter is ambiguous. We can't tell from the sentence "All students don't like math" alone whether the intended meaning is that no students like math or that some do and some don't. The syntax allows for both interpretations, the ambiguity resulting from how the scope of "not" is interpreted.

Never in my life have I used "maths" or heard anyone use it. Apparently, British speakers use that word. In American English, the word is "math," never "maths." My computer even underlines "maths" as a misspelling.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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