he was understood by no one


Senior Member
This thread taught me to say "I haven't been offered a drink by anyone"
rather than "I have been offered a drink by no one"

I thought it was in order to avoid using the negative at the end of a sentence.

But there are cases where you see a sentence end with "by no one" as in:
The sign language interpreter signed vigorously throughout Nelson Mandela’s memorial. He was seen by millions worldwide, but apparently understood by no one.
-CNN blog
Crosby is an amazing player, and a great teammate and leader. His competitive nature and drive to win is matched by no one. He also is a fun guy to be teammates with. I’m very lucky to play with him and several talented players in Pittsburgh.
-Christmas Q&A with ‘Nisky’
Are these examples any different than that of the above thread?
  • Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    You've raised an interesting question there, JungKim. The construction with "by no-one" sounds perfectly natural in the CNN and Nisky quotes, whereas "I have been offered a drink by no-one" doesn't.

    I've run through a large number of examples in my mind, and the only differentiating factor I can see is that "... by no-one" works with verbs expressing abstract ideas (understood, matched, appreciated, praised, loved, ...), but not with verbs expressing a concrete action. It doesn't sound natural to say "I was offered a drink by no-one", "The prize was won by no-one", "A speech was made by no-one".

    Perhaps this is because we tend to use the active voice for such actions, and if we do use the passive it's usually when the action did happen, not when it didn't. If you substitute someone's name for "no-one" in the drink/prize/speech examples, they sound more natural: "I was offered a drink by John", "The prize was won by Mary", etc.

    This is not in any way a rule. It's just an observation on my part, and others may find evidence that counters it.

    < Previous | Next >