Knowing when to use “no” and “not” can be very confusing for many people who speak English as a second language.
Use the following guidelines to help you understand how and when to use these parts of speech correctly.
1. When to use “not” a. You can use “not” to make a word, phrase, or expression negative. Look at the following correct and incorrect uses of "not" Example 1
Correct: I can meet with you on Tuesday, but not on Thursday.
Incorrect: I can meet with you on Tuesday, but no on Thursday.
Correct: He is not much better today.
Incorrect: He is no much better today.
b. "Not" can occur after a helping verb and before the main verb. For example: "I am not going to work today." In this sentence, "am" is the helping verb and "going" in the main verb.
c. "Not" can occur as a contraction with a helping verb. For example: "I didn't tell you." In this sentence, "didn't" is the contraction for "did not".
d. "Not" can occur after a main verb, when the main verb is a form of the verb "to be". For example:
when used with the contraction "isn't" which means "is not": "This isn't the best coffee I've ever had."
when used in the full form "is not": "This is not the best coffee I've ever had."
e. You can use “not” and an adverb as a two-word phrase when answering a “yes/no” question. Look at the following examples:
Are you finished with your project? Not yet.
Do you want some coffee? Not now.
Do you like eating pizza? Not anymore.
2. When to use “no” a. You can use “no” with a noun or –ing form of a verb to mean “not any”, “not a”, or “not an”
Look at the following examples: When "no" means "not any"
no+ noun: "There were no hamburgers left". In this sentence, "no" comes before the noun "hamburgers" and means, "There weren’t any hamburgers left."
no + -ing verb:"There is no smoking in this building." "No" comes before the "ing" verb "smoking" and means, "There is not any smoking in this building."
When "no" means "not a" or "not an"
no+noun: "There is no chance of that happening." In this sentence, "no" comes before the noun "chance" and means, "There is not a chance of that happening."
no + noun: "There is no auto for sale." In this sentence, "no" comes before the noun "auto" and means, "There a not an auto for sale."
b. You can use “no” when answering a “yes/no” question. In addition to using short phrases of "not any", many times we begin our answer with “no” and follow it with the “not” phrase.
Take a look at the following examples
Do you want to come with us? No, I do not.
Are you going shopping tomorrow? No, I don’t think I can.
Would John like that? No, he wouldn’t.
Practice exercises for you to complete on your own. Read the following sentences and decide if they use “not” and “no” correctly. If they are correct, do nothing; if not, correct them. 1. She is no going to the movies with us. 2. Mark can no find his car keys. 3. I like fruit, but not vegetables. 4. It was no Jack that called, it was Andy. 5. There were no teachers at the party. 6. I can come to visit you, but not tonight. 7. Sometimes I no see stars at night. 8. Jane was no able to find us. 9. I did not go to the meeting. 10. I hated no seeing my friends. 11. When she arrived for dinner, she had no dessert with her. 12. They did not want to help us. 13. The glass is no important. 14. Did you say you wanted white wine and not red? 15. I no really like that very much. 16. Matt doesn’t usually smoke. 17. I don’t know what happened. 18. She no care much about that. 19. I’m not sure what is going on. 20. If you tell me the truth, I will not be mad.
Use “no” or “not” in the blanks in the following sentences. 1. I like swimming, but _____ diving. 2. My mother could _____ understand what he said. 3. We had _____ milk in the refrigerator. 4. He does _____ want to come with us. 5. Get those apples over there, but ____ these. 6. Are you a smoker? _____ really. 7. They did ____ want to finish their work. 8. Mary was ____ able to drive her car. 9. You can come and visit us, but ____tonight. 10. I’ve got ____time to talk. 11. ______workers went on strike. 12. George’s cell phone rang, but there was ____ answer. 13. I did _____answer when he called me. 14. The students went to the dance, but ___the teachers. 15. We go skiing a lot in the winter, but ___in the spring. 16. It was ___ Anne who broke the vase. 17. I do ____like it when you do that. 18. I do ___really like grapes. 19. My friend John as ___sense of humor. 20. Let’s go to the movies, ____ out to dinner.
Correct any errors you see in the use of “not” and “no” in the following paragraph. When I was a little girl, my parents always had a big family gathering at our house on holidays. I remember how much my relatives used to rave about mother’s wonderful cooking. She insisted on doing all of the work herself and did no allow anyone to help her, except me. My mother was funny like that; her kitchen was her special place. Being from an Italian family, no meal was a meal if we no have pasta and spaghetti sauce. I used to be in charge of getting the ingredients for her special sauce and remember my mother saying, “Get the best tomatoes you can find, no the bruised ones.” She taught me all of her secret recipes and made me swear not to give them out to anyone. To this day, I have no shared my mother’s recipe with anyone, no matter how many times they asked.