use of "and" and "or" with a "negative verb" ??


For the sentence "The squamous architecture is mature, without dysplasia or single-cell atypia." is the use of "or" incorrect (have a bunch of doctors that form sentences using "negative" verbs but use "or" in the last half of the sentence).  That is, shouldn't the article used here be "and" when you are trying to state that none of these things are found in the specimen.   Also, for example, they will dictate "The specimen is without abnormality, free of atypia or malignancy." and I believe that sentence should be written " of atypia and malignancy." to accurately state what they are trying to say (i.e., there is no atypia and there is no malignancy in the specimen).


Could I get the answer to whether or not the article "and" should be used instead of "or" when a negative verb is used, followed by a "list" of things that are being excluded.

negative Verbs asked Aug 15 '13 at 17:57 Barbara Rowell New member

1 answer


That's a good question, Barbara.  I think that the negative vibe of the sentence is throwing you off. 


The subject matter is a bit above my head, but I can tell you that the choice between "or" and "and" depends on whether you need both or only one to satisfy some condition.  In this instance the condition is maturity.  I suspect that either one is a sign of maturity and both are not required to be considered mature.  However, to be considered free of abnormality, both must be absent.  That is why they use and sometimes and or other times.


Let's put it into a simpler context that is easier for me to follow.  We'll talk about fruit.


I am teaching my child how to go shopping at the market.  I have told him to make sure he gets some fruit. 

(1) Any fruit will do, but his favorite fruits are bananas and apples

(2) He comes back and I see the basket is empty, without bananas or apples.


I give him new instructions and tell him he must get at least two types of fruit. 


(3) I remind him that his favorite fruit is a banana or an apple and suggest he get both.

(4)  He comes back with strawberries and peaches in his basket, but without bananas and apples. 


These sentences show all of the combinations - positive and negative as you call it, with and or or

In sentence (1), I am detailing what his favorite fruits (plural) are, so I need to include both with and

Sentence (2) has a negative (empty, without) connotation, but only one of those items needs to be included to change it to positive.  If the basket had a banana in it, it would not be empty.

Sentences (3) and (4) flip these around.  First I am describing that a single thing (favorite fruit) is one of two things, so I use or.  Then the condition we are expecting (both bananas and apples) has not been met. 


I hope that helps.

link comment answered Aug 15 '13 at 23:23 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

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