No is a complete sentence, the t-shirt

Originally published at:


Hipsters fetishize the weirdest things.


If it’s a complete sentence, why isn’t it enough words for a BBS comment? Just wondering :slight_smile:


I used a sharpie marker and made my own for far less cheddar.


Not being contrarian, just curious if “No” could really be considered a sentence and the answer technically is its not really one.

What is a one-word sentence called?
An imperative sentence can be as short as one word, such as: “Go.” Technically, a sentence must contain at least a subject and a verb, but in this case, the subject (you) is assumed and understood.
Just remember that not every one-word phrase is really a sentence. Let’s look at an example: “She was unable to sleep. Again.”

Here, “Again” is technically not a sentence since it’s missing a subject (or a presumed subject like the imperative) and a verb

Unless i misunderstood the above of course. I’m still working on my coffee


My hackles rise when I read ‘theoretically…’, ‘technically…’ or ‘by definition…’. A language is mostly used without theories. Grammarians fit rules to a language, and then some grammarians start fitting the language to their rules.

Let’s get some nit-picky punctuation issues out of the way…

No is not a sentence, it is the first word in this sentence, and it ought to be quoted.

“No” is not a sentence, it is the quotation of a sentence.

No. And that is a sentence. Or what would you call it? It is complete in itself and it finishes with a period. Some would call it a ‘sentence fragment’, suggesting that the rest of the sentence “…, I disagree with that” somehow exists in some quantum grammar space, complete with a verb. But which verb? They might have been meaning “No, that is wrong”. If the other bit does not exist in any real sense because we cannot say anything about it’s nature; then “No” is not a fragment. It works like a sentence.


(That last one’s another t-shirt)


I don’t understand the significance of this. Can anyone explain?

I found a self-help book from 1995 titled No is a Complete Sentence, so the phrase has been around a lot longer than Tina Roth Eisenberg’s tweet. So is the t-shirt still commemorating her tweet from a month ago? Why is it commemorating that tweet? Why commemorate this one particular instance of this phrase’s use?

Honestly, I don’t even understand the point of the phrase.

It seems the reason why people like to state “no is a complete sentence” is that, despite not being a complete sentence, they wish to express the sentiment that saying just “no” does not need to be justified.

I agree with that sentiment. However I find how it’s expressed a bit silly: it expresses the lack of a need for justification by using a justification.

It seems that “no” being a complete sentences somehow justifies the fact that it doesn’t need justification, but if it doesn’t need justification, then it’s not needing justification also needs no justification (like tautological statements). And yet the phrase exists. This reminds me of Kafka.

What really gets me, though, is that not only does the phrase justify what doesn’t need justifying, it does it poorly. Who cares whether something is a complete sentence? This is the 21st century; don’t we all know that it’s not only ok, it’s normal to speak in incomplete sentences?

It’s as if the speaker of the phrase believes they’re addressing a grammar nazi, trying to convince the addressee that it’s ok to simply say “no”, by using grammar nazi reasoning, but the addressee isn’t a grammar nazi, and the grammar is wrong anyway, but nobody cares (even grammar nazis don’t care), so why even say the phrase?

I don’t need a grammatical justification for saying “no.” I don’t need any justification. That’s the point of the phrase, right? So if I don’t need any justification, wouldn’t it be a stronger t-shirt if it just said “NO”? “NO” without any context, without any justification, just there for all to read—doesn’t that actually express the sentiment more directly and less confusingly?

I particularly don’t care that colloquially “No” is used as a sentence. I’m always of the mind that language is an evolving thing and adhering to rules on the “right” way to use a language misses the entire point. That being said, the only reason i brought up what i posted above was merely for conversational purposes. I tend to like looking things up on a whim or because i find it interesting.

1 Like
1 Like

I think you just did.

Suppose they did a shirt saying “The red alder is the commonest tree”. That, too, is a simple statement. It is probably true, but there is some wriggle room, depending on how many sorts of pine you can count as a single type of tree. Would it sell?

However “No is a complete sentence” seems to come with a huge backstory. You can, and have imagined several arguments where this appears. You have presented a couple of arguments for and against the comment…

Yep, that t-shirt is in your head now, man. Mine too. There’s no getting it out now.

1 Like



No is a complete sentence

is a politically correct way of saying

No means no.

The backstory that I understand is that women have historically been pressured to conform to submissive roles. They felt pressure to do what people asked of them unless there was a good reason not to do so, and so if they refused they felt pressure to state a good reason.

The T shirt is intended to reclaim their right of refusal without explanation. Especially around sex. I think it is also intended to combat historical male attitudes that if a woman just said No they were just playing hard to get. That the man should not hear it as a hard no unless it was accompanied by a strong reason and or physical refusal.

My snarky comment was referencing ‘Yes means Yes’ which is an even stronger statement: Lack of a No means you do not have consent.

1 Like

I agree with the sentiment too, and I myself will take others’ “No.” at face value. But there are some very dense people out in the wild, and I’m finding that adding a little extra to the answer gives it conviction. Otherwise, you have to play the “are you sure?” game.
“No, I’m not signing up for your rewards card.”
“No, I can’t make it to the party tonight.”
“No, these are not the droids you’re looking for.”
“No, I don’t think your t-shirt idea is going to sell very well.”

Yes, the traditionally complete sentence is more assertive (without having to shout and without having to provide justification). It also informs the person that you fully understand their request. A one-word “No.” is just curt.

1 Like

What makes “no means no” politically incorrect?

1 Like

I don’t think it’s politically incorrect so much as a hot button. Consent is still a radical concept in certain circles, and it is politically and religiously charged to boot. A No Means No shirt is eventually going to result in someone screaming at you that you’re the reason society has fallen into moral degeneracy.


Bingo. The PC corollary to ‘Yes means Yes’ is that no is understood without even having to be said. So a ‘No means No’ shirt would make some people think you are trying to imply the corollary of ‘Abscence of No is not a No’.

But of course this meaning is not in the language itself, rather the listeners perceptions. The main rule of PC is that you don’t do anything that could be misinterpreted as insensitive, even if the misinterpretation is just a false projection of the listener.

Kind of like how broflakes interpret Black Lives Matter as ‘non black lives don’t matter’

1 Like

I’m less confused about the phrase now, but I’m still trying to determine what significance the t-shirt’s origin story has.

I can’t find the tweet in question, so I don’t know if there’s some context I need.

A quick google search for “no is a complete sentence” shows Eisenberg isn’t the first to write this phrase. Is there a reason why we are being told about her particular tweet?

To me, it seems like a trivial detail, but because it’s practically the only text in the post not directly related to the shirt’s sale, it makes me feel like I’m missing some insider knowledge about its significance.

Does anyone have any insight?

ETA: I’m asking why Eisenberg’s tweeting this phrase is commemorated on a t-shirt, but none of the people who used the phrase over the many years prior to her tweet get the same honor. Why is her tweet noteworthy, but all prior instances of the phrase not noteworthy? I’m just baffled by this. I really wish that someone could explain.

…aaaand the shirt claims another soul.

via Imgflip Meme Generator


The power of complete negation is probably the only beautiful thing that can exist in a totalized world of capital. $32 is a bit much though.