That's no moon or That's not a moon?

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beefeather

Member
Russian
As I learnt from web-site dictionary.cambridge.org, one should use the form "it's no something" only if something is gradable, i.e. you can say "it's no secret" (secret is gradable), but you cannot say "it's no apple".

However in a memorable quote from Star Wars Obi-Wan says: "That's no moon".

This confuses me. Did not they have cambridge dictionary in the galaxy far, far away? Or is "moon" actually gradable in some way?

Or is this form used for an exaggeration, i.e. "that's no moon" == "that's not a moon at all"?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    This confuses me.
    I find the Cambridge explanation confusing too. In fact I find it incomprehensible.

    I had never heard of a "gradeable noun" and failed to under the concept of
    "(it is either something or it is not) we cannot use no + noun:
    A potato is not a fruit.
    Not: A potato is no fruit."

    "A potato is no fruit" is perfectly acceptable, if somewhat informal, but it differs from "A potato is not a fruit"
    It’s no secret that we are interested. (= It’s not a secret. A secret is gradable. Something can be more of a secret than something else.) :confused: The security services of any country will tell you that a thing is either a secret or it is not... :D

    I think what Cambridge meant is:

    A potato is not a fruit.
    A potato is no fruit." = A potato is not of the required standard to be called/described as a fruit."
    It’s no secret = What you have just told me is not of the required standard to be called/described as a secret."
    That is no moon = That is not of the required standard to be called/described as a moon."
     

    beefeather

    Member
    Russian
    Is it something like "it's not a fruit" for when you know the class of the object and it's not fruit, and "it's no fruit" is more for the case when you only see that the object doesn't qualify for a fruit, but you cannot tell what it is instead?
    How far would you say this explanation is from being accurate?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    How far would you say this explanation is from being accurate?
    No. It is as I said:
    "it's no fruit" is more for the case when you only see mean that the object doesn't qualify as a fruit, but you cannot tell what it is instead" It does not matter if you know what the thing is or not.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think there’s a fox in the garden — No, there is not a fox in the garden
    There’s no fox in the garden :tick:

    I think a tomato is a vegetable — It’s not a vegetable, it’s a fruit
    It’s no vegetable… :cross:

    I think there’s a dog in the garden — That’s no dog. :tick: That’s a fox!
    (Here “no” is used in the same way as in “That’s no moon”. Oxford’s explanation of this usage: Used to indicate that something is quite the opposite of what is being specified.)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    AE (US English)
    I found "gradable adjectives" on-line, but not gradable nouns.

    "It is no fruit" means "It is not a fruit". With contractions, "It's no fruit" means "It's not a fruit". All 4 are correct grammar in AE, and I suspect they are correct grammar in BE too.

    In AE "That is not a moon!" is more common, but "That's no moon!" is correct. In this case it is used for emphasis. We don't think in "classes", and (for the character in the movie) it was not an issue of semantics. He was not saying "That object doesn't fall into the class we call moon". He was saying "We all thought that was a moon, but it is not! (It is a man-made object)"

    This confuses me. Did not they have cambridge dictionary in the galaxy far, far away?
    They did not! :) It is an American film, and they speak AE (American English). As you know, AE is different from BE in hundreds of ways. The Cambridge dictionary is a BE dictionary, named after the famous Cambridge University in England.
     

    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    … one should use the form "it's no smth" only if smth is gradable ….

    However in a memorable quote from Star Wars Obi-Wan says: "That's no moon".
    Cambridge isn't wrong. Obi-Wan doesn't say "It's no moon" because that wouldn't be natural.
     

    beefeather

    Member
    Russian
    Thank you, but I'd like to try again.
    Suppose you see an object, that you are sure is not a fox, but you have no idea what it is. Do you have any inclination towards either of these phases: "it's not a fox" and "it's no fox"? Is any of them more automatic for this situation?
     
    Last edited:

    beefeather

    Member
    Russian
    Cambridge isn't wrong. Obi-Wan doesn't say "It's no moon" because that wouldn't be natural.
    Does it mean that it's just another whole story with "that", different from "it"? I tried to be accurate with the quotes, but I just didn't expect "that" not to be fully exchangeable with "it" in this context.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Suppose you see an object, that you are sure is not a fox, but you have no idea what it is. Do you have any inclination towards either of these phases: "it's not a fox" and "it's no fox"? Is any of them more automatic for this situation?
    It’s not a fox is a straightforward statement of fact (or opinion).
    It’s no fox! is an emphatic statement, which one would expect to be followed by a declaration of what it is. See #5 and #7. (In this case, it and that are interchangeable in both statements.)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    which one would expect to be followed by a declaration of what it is.
    That is certainly the usual form but, as I mentioned in #4, defining the object is not necessary to the construction:
    - There’s a fox in the garden.
    - That's no fox - I've no idea what it is but it does not look friendly. Close the door!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, absolutely. I haven’t disagreed with that. The comment you’ve quoted referred specifically to the use of “no” in an emphatic statement, as defined in #5.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The more complete quote is:
    Obi-wan Kenobi: That's no moon ... it's a space station!
    If the full sentence had been provided, some of the above discussion would not have been needed as we see that the speaker does know what it is.
     

    beefeather

    Member
    Russian
    The more complete quote is:
    Obi-wan Kenobi: That's no moon ... it's a space station!
    If the full sentence had been provided, some of the above discussion would not have been needed as we see that the speaker does know what it is.
    Could it be that "is no" is more common with such follow up, while "is not a" is versatile, could be used with and without it?
    Would you say that it makes significant difference that the character says "that's no moon", not "it's no moon" in the context of our discussion?
     
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