a student was not

azz

Senior Member
armenian
a. A student was not in the class.
b. A single student was not in the class.


Can't these mean two things
1. There was a student missing from the class. All the others were there.
2. There was was no student in the class.

The sentences are mine.

My feeling is that (b) is genuinely ambiguous, while (a) can only mean (1).

Many thanks.
 
  • Scrawny goat

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    Neither sounds natural to me.
    If a single student is missing, we'd say 'one student was missing from the class'.

    As I have said, b sounds wrong. But if I had to guess at a meaning I would guess that one particular student was missing.
    It would be more natural to say 'a single student was absent'.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Neither of these are idiomatic sentences (things normally said in English).

    a. A student was not in the class.
    This sentence talks about a student. Probably the next sentence will be "She was in the library". This sentence does not talk about all the students in the class. It does not say "all the other students were in the class". It does not mean that, or imply that.

    b. A single student was not in the class.
    This sentence does say that only one student was missing from the class. So if they normally have 30 students, they have 29 today. It does not mean there were zero students, as you suggest.

    To say there were zero students in the class, you could say:

    - There was not a single student in the class.
     
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