Student or Learner
I am having a problem with the negative forms of "there isn't a..." and "there aren't any...". In which situation should we use the singular construction and in which situation should we use the plural construction? I
a) There isn't a TV in the house.
b) There aren't TVs in the house.
c) There aren't any TVs in the house.
What's the difference in meaning and context in which the above sentences are used?
d) Are there any chairs in room?
e) No, there aren't any chairs in the room.
f) No, there aren't chairs in the room.
g) No, there isn't a chair in the room.
I have read somewhere that a negative answer is "typically in the plural". Why is that? Is "any" necessary in the negative answer?
NOT A TEACHER
(1) Wow! You have asked a great question. I am a native speaker, but
I cannot answer it easily. Probably some learners can do a better job.
(2) All I can do (until more intelligent people answer you) is to offer
some ideas from two books that I checked:
The Grammar Book by Mesdames Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman
and Practical English Usage by Mr. Michael Swan.
(3) I think that the best approach is to first understand the
affirmative sentences, not the negative ones.
(4) Mr. Swan explains that we use some when we are thinking about
limited but indefinite numbers; we use no article when we are not thinking
of numbers at all.
(a) We've planted some roses. = a limited number; speaker does not
know how many.
(b) I like roses, = no idea of number.
(5) Now let's change those to the negative (these are only my words):
We have not planted any roses. (the negative of "some" is "any")
I do not like roses.
(5) Let's now discuss your sentences (REMEMBER: these are only my
ideas based on the information in (4).)
(a) There is a (= one) TV. There is not a TV. I think that this
sentence is pretty clear, don't you?
(b) There are TV's in the house. There aren't TV's in the house.
(Remember: This is similar to "I like roses" and "I don't like roses." In other
words, no idea of number.)
(c) There are some TV's; There aren't any TV's.
(Remember: This is similar to "We have planted some roses; We haven't
planted any roses." In other words, a limited number; speaker doesn't
know how many.)
(6) Now we're ready for your last four sentences. I am sure that you
can now analyze them for yourself. Right? The following "answers"
are only my opinion. Do you agree with my answers?
Are there any chairs in the room? This is the only affirmative sentence
among your seven sentences. When you use "any," Mr. Swan says that
it is not easy or important to say how many chairs. If you use the
word "some" in that sentence, Mr. Swan says that you expect the answer
is probably "Yes." [My words: If you say to a friend, "Do you have any
money?" that means that you really do not know; if you ask, "Do you
have some money?" you think that s/he probably does.] And if you ask,
"Are there chairs in the room?" you are not thinking of numbers
No, there aren't any chairs in the room.
This seems to the negative of "Yes, there are some chairs."
No, there aren't chairs.
This seems to be the negative of "Yes, there are chairs." (No idea of
No, there isn't a chair in the room.
This seems just to be the negative of our "easy" sentence
"Yes, there is a chair in the room."