3 Cases of “Not Only . . . but Also” Variations

By Mark Nichol

Sentences that employ the “not only . . . but also” counterpoint (as in “I visited not only France but also Spain”) can confound writers, who often fail to apply logical syntax when using this construction. As shown in the examples below, such confusion often occurs in similarly posed statements. Discussion and revision of each sentence explains and illustrates coherent use of related constructions.

1. The idea was not to just construct a new arena, but one that would nod to the roots of the game.

Just occupies the same role as only in a “not only . . . but also” counterpoint, and the principle is the same—when a verb applies to both the “not only” proposition and the “but also” proposition, the verb must precede “not only”: “The idea was to construct not just a new arena but also one that would nod to the roots of the game.” (Also, note that in this example as well as in the others, internal punctuation is not required to set off the two parts of the sentence.)

2. The above principles are not intended to prescribe specific reporting practices, but rather offer sound direction for the board and management to pursue.

Here, as in a “not only . . . but also” construction of this type, the verb supports both elements of the not/rather counterpoint, so it must precede, not follow, not: “The above principles are intended not to prescribe specific reporting practices but rather to offer sound direction for the board and management to pursue.”

3. It’s not simply deciding how good or bad an individual playing card is, but rather how consistently the player manages his or her appetite to win and his or her tolerance for losing.

This sentence does not have a “not only . . . but also” counterpoint, but it requires a similar construction to make sense. Because simply implies addition, not replacement, also should replace rather, and the second part of the sentence requires a verb equivalent to deciding: “It’s not simply deciding how good or bad an individual playing card is but also determining how consistently the player manages his or her appetite to win and his or her tolerance for losing.

Recommended for you: « »



1 Response to “3 Cases of “Not Only . . . but Also” Variations”

  • Andy Knoedler

    Example 3 has a slight error, though it’s enough to throw off the meaning of the sentence on first reading.

    As it reads now: “. . . deciding how good or bad an individual playing card is . . .” which suggests that we’re considering the design of playing cards.

    As it should read: “. . . deciding how good or bad an individual playing cards is . . .” which suggests that we’re considering the temperament of card players.

Leave a comment: