Grammar question: A and not B is OR A and not B are?

I have no problem with “The ball is red.”

Ditto for “The ball and the box are red.”

Also no problem with “The ball or the box is red.”

But should it be “The ball and not the box is red”?

Or should it be “The ball and not the box are red”?

Since only one of the objects is red, I’d use “but not” instead of “and not”.

But as for your question, your choice of is or are has to modify the quantity of the item with the quality in question. Since both ball and box are singular in that only one is red, you would use is.

If it helps, imagine the sentence without the “and not ___” segment. You wouldn’t say, “The ball are not red”, so you also wouldn’t say, “The ball and not the box are red.”

I believe “A and not B is” is correct. The pair form a single unit so they’re treated as if they were one thing. Like “Rock and roll is here to stay.”

But it’s a gray area. It depends on whether you’re treating them as a single item or two separate items that have a common characteristic. “A and not B” would work as a single item because it’s referring to the relationship between A and B. But “The ball and the box are red” would be correct because the ball and the box have individual identities.

It is “The ball and not the box is red.”

To me it seems like it should be:

The ball, but not the box, is red.

“And” doesn’t really make sense here to me. (though honestly, I’d probably restructure it to “The ball is red, though the box isn’t” or something because no matter what you do it sounds kind of awkward to me).

Thank you one and all.


Upon reading other posts, I’m rethinking this. The “A and not B” made me think of this as a logical expression. But the examples given of balls and boxes are just normal English.

In routine usage, the subject of “The ball and not the box is red” would be “The ball”. “And not the box” is an adjective clause.

I see this all the time in my work: a poorly constructed sentence leads to grammatical confusion.

Since the point of the sentence is that the box is not the same color as the ball, why not say: “The ball is red, but the box is not”? Problem solved.

I can see using “and” is you’re trying to point out a direct comparison between A and B.

For example:
“Why does Smith’s lawyer get to present his summation after Jones’ lawyer?”
“Smith and not Jones is the plaintiff.”

I’ve always disagreed with this argument. If a sentence seems confusing, then learn what the rules are and construct it correctly. Avoiding a sentence because you’re not sure how to construct it properly is mental laziness.

It depends on what your definition of is is.

You know, a bunch of vowels, like as, es, os, and us.

These sorts of questions, with odd grammatical constructions like this, don’t just come up in the run-of-the-mill bad writing. It also comes up on logic classes, where one of the topics is to translate symbolic logic propositions to a plain-english sentence – or even more so, to translate a plain-english sentence to a symbolic logic proposition so you can manipulate it was logical techniques. (Rather similar to translating word problems into an algebraic equation.)

BTW, one of the little details we learned was that, for this purpose, the words “and” and “but” are completely synonymous, and are just two different “stylistic variants” of the same meaning. “A and B” is synonymous with “A but B”, although the more common real-life usage is “A but not B”, which is identical to “A and not B”.

As for the statement “The ball and not the box is red” – I parse that as having the verb “is” with the subject being only “The ball” rather than “The ball and not the box”. I’m not parsing the part “and not the box” as being part of the subject. So by that thinking, “is” is right.

Is not that what the meaning of is is?

ETA: The really shitty problem is the ambiguous (in English grammer) form “All A is/are not B” –
Does that mean every instance of A fails to be B (that is, NO A is B)? Or does it mean “It is not the case that all A are B”, i.e., “Some A are not B” or “Not all A are B”? As I’ve heard it explained, this bad locution comes about from the Latin, where the grammar is not thus ambiguous.

(Missed edit window.)

Yeah, Yeah, I see I spelled grammar wrong in one spot. Not that I usually nit-pick my own spelling like this if I miss the edit window, but given the nature of the topic, I guess I should.

That first analysis appears, to me, to be the correct one. As the statement stands, all the ambiguity stems from the slightly-klutzy way the singular/plural thing is handled, which, consequently, has to be filtered-out to get to the underlying logic diagram.

Try this excessively-verbose, pedantic, etc., re-parse:

“Everything which is of the set A (whether A consists of a single entity or multiple entities), is not B.”

Or, the other extreme, boiled-down to: “A is not B.”

AFAIK, the “all” is unnecessary to the “equation”, since “all” of a named set is presumed in the very use of the name, whether its contents be singular or plural, unless the statement itself possesses some expression or other specifically calling for “less-than-A” or a “subset-of-B”…

Of the two choices you listed, the correct answer is, “The ball and not the box is red.” Which can also be punctuated, “The ball, and not the box, is red.” but that’s neither here nor there. There are, of course, other ways of framing the statement but without knowing some larger context, the best anyone can offer is their opinion.

I’d disagree, at least as far as real-life usage goes.

Consider these examples:
“Why does Smith’s lawyer get to present his summation after Jones’ lawyer?”
“Smith and not Jones is the plaintiff.”

“Why does Smith’s lawyer get to present his summation after Brown’s lawyer this week when Jones’ lawyer had to present his summation before Brown’s lawyer last week?”
“Smith but not Jones is the plaintiff.”

In the first pair of sentences, the “and” is used to link Smith and Jones - they’re in a situation where only one of them can be first and by being first, they preclude the possibility of the other being first. In the second pair of sentences, the “but” compares the situations of Smith and Jones, but they’re not linked - both Smith and Jones could hypothetically have been first (or last).

This is one of those instances where the old Associated Press and UPI Style Guides from my Broadcast Journalism days can trump any “official” answer from the English Department. Some posters have already come close, but I’m pretty sure if this sentence were to show up on a studio teleprompter, it would read,

“The ball, and not the box, is red.”

Not sure whether that’s strictly-perfect the-king’s-, the-queen’s-, the President’s or a linguistics-professor’s-“modern English punctuation” or not - I’m no English maven, just a half-decent “word-engineer” - but I know for certain that a certain amount of technically-“extraneous” punctuation can instantly clarify opaque language, and can readily make reading even the most oddly-worded sentences, silently or aloud, simplicity itself.

That said, it’s interesting that the phraseology is decidedly late-Victorian-era… and, back in that era, they’d very likely have punctuated it exactly as above…

ETA: Ha! Joke’s on me! While I was being all pedantic and perfectionist, Stickler pretty cogently nailed it on the head…

I have come across this in a COBOL programme code: “IF NOT (NOT A AND NOT B)”. It took me a while to work out what it meant.

Gogo gadget De Morgan’s law!

ETA: In all seriousness, I have done stuff that’s technically reducible for readability. I don’t think this case ever could be, but sometimes the logic is a lot clearer, even in the presence of a comment, if you write slightly more verbose logical expressions even if they’re technically equivalent to something else.