A and B didn't/Neither A nor B

Snappy_is_here

Senior Member
Japanese
I found this in an English textbook published in Japan.

"Emily and Minjun didn't eat bananas this morning."

Does this mean either Emily or Minjun ate bananas?

In my understanding I should say, "Neither Emily nor Minjun ate bananas this morning," if Emily didn't eat bananas and Minjun didn't, either.
 
  • armour65

    Senior Member
    United States English
    Your understanding is correct. Both forms mean the same thing and are equally correct (although, as you noted, the first may cause some confusion for non-natives), but the example from the textbook is more common in spoken English, while "Neither Emily nor..." is indicative of formal speech.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    The textbook's sentence might mean:

    • Emily didn't eat a banana this morning, and Minjun didn't either.
    • Perhaps Emily or Minjun ate a banana, but not both of them.
    It does not mean either Emily or Minjun ate bananas.
     

    armour65

    Senior Member
    United States English
    Forero, I'm not sure that there's any way to be able to distinguish the difference without having somebody verbalize/accentuate a particular word. I can understand your second interpretation if the word and was accented by a speaker. In the same vein, one could say that it means "The didn't eat a banana today, but they did yesterday."
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    The sentence from the textbook is highly ambiguous without context. It might even mean "It was somebody else that ate the bananas."

    These sentence are clearer:

    Neither Emily nor Minjun ate bananas this morning.
    Emily didn't eat bananas this morning, and Minjun didn't either.
    Emily and Minjun ate no bananas this morning.

    The meaning of all three is the same.
     
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