Despite the apparent simplicity of these correlative conjunctions, there is uncertainty and disagreement over the suitability of their use and the correctness of their placement. Much of this discord relates to the need for parallelism and sentence balance. I’ll look at that later in the post, but first I’ll give an overview of how the conjunctions are used.
Not only is this post quite long and detailed, it also lacks images, so I’ve folded it up and divided it into three general sections: Usage, Parallelism, Opinions.
Writers typically, but not always, use both parts of the set, i.e. (1) not only, and (2) but (also). The first part is occasionally written not just or not alone, while the second part is commonly seen in the forms but . . . too and but . . . as well. These variants offer different nuances but not very different meanings.
It was not just a big bear, but a grumpy one as well.
Not alone did she win the race, but she also beat the record.
He not only used a fictitious example, but he reproduced it too.
But (also) is the most common root form, so I’ll focus on it in this discussion. Where the alternatives are not mentioned, consider them implied. When but is included you can either add also (or its alternatives) or not; both forms are common and standard. Hence the parentheses in but (also), which could also be written as (but) also, since but sometimes doesn’t appear either.
He not only used a fictitious example, but he also reproduced it.
He not only used a fictitious example, he also reproduced it.
Rowers not only face backward, they race backward.
The last example, from the New Yorker, is effective because of its succinctness and punchy rhythm. Adding but would impair it, while adding also would do little or nothing to improve it. Doing without but or also tends to reduce formality, or to reduce stiffness in formal prose, and can benefit short and straightforward constructions. Here are a few more:
“The street door of the rooming-house was not only unlocked but wide open” (Dashiell Hammett, ‘The Big Knockover’)
“Borges not only wrote stories but transformed them” (The Mirror Man documentary)
“She not only consults, she insults.” (Muriel Spark, Aiding and Abetting)
“The shape of Cleopatra’s nose influences not only wars, but ideologies” (Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers)
“The omission of the also is not only frequent but Standard” (Kenneth G. Wilson, Columbia Guide to Standard American English)
“Not only are there verbs with similar meanings and different past-tense forms, there are verbs with different meanings and the same past-tense forms. (Steven Pinker, Words and Rules)
“…his application was not only refused by Bonn, it was hardly noticed and remained totally unsupported.” (Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem)
But (also) can appear by itself, without being preceded by not only:
“It depends on your point of view, but also on where you live.” (Don Watson, Weasel Words)
“The article, based on a lengthy interview with Kidd, but also on discussions with other figures in Joyce and general editorial scholarship, contained the essentials of the row which was then inevitable.” (Bruce Arnold, The Scandal of Ulysses; my underlines)
Not only could have been inserted as follows:
“The article, based not only on a lengthy interview with Kidd, but also on discussions with other figures…”
But whether this is preferable to the original is a matter of taste, not correctness.
Using not only . . . but (also) to frame parallel sentence parts can heighten clarity, reduce ambiguity, and lend elegance to one’s style. Nonetheless, many skilled writers eschew precise parallelism at no significant cost. It’s only when faulty parallelism is flagrant that most readers tend to notice it, or to notice that something has gone awry.
Short sentences derive force from simplicity and a lack of elaborate rhetorical devices, whereas longer sentences often need more emphasis on balance, to help the reader keep track of structure and constituent parts. Balance is boosted by careful placement of sentence elements.
Not only does the number of migrations vary with the month, but also with the type of species.
Not only does the number of migrations vary with the month, (but) it also varies with the type of species.
The number of migrations varies not only with the month, but also with the type of species.
These examples show the general benefit of careful placement of the correlative conjunctions. Though none is likely to confuse people, the third is the tidiest. Some style authorities consider this tidiness an essential point of courtesy, but sentence structure is not something most readers pay much attention to – unless it’s a mess.
To take a closer look at not only . . . but (also) in the context of parallelism and sentence balance, consider the following example:
The controversy not only damages sales but also shareholder confidence.
That is, [subject] not only [verb, noun] but also [noun]. Many readers don’t notice that the correlated sentence parts are mismatched, some notice but don’t care, and others notice and care a little, or care very much. If you want to offset criticism from purists, you could reposition not only from its contentious position before the verb, to immediately before the element it qualifies:
The controversy damages not only sales but also shareholder confidence.
[subject, verb] not only [noun] but also [noun]
or you could repeat the verb or insert another suitable one:
The controversy not only damages sales but also damages shareholder confidence.
The controversy not only damages sales but also undermines shareholder confidence.
[subject] not only [verb, noun] but also [verb, noun]
Or you could simply use and:
The controversy damages sales and shareholder confidence.
Each option brings subtle differences to the structure and stress of the sentence. Here’s an interesting example from George Orwell’s “Down the Mine”:
Occasionally, of course, the charge is too powerful, and then it not only brings the coal out but brings the roof down as well.
The phrasal verbs bring out and bring down add further internal symmetry and counterpoint to Orwell’s sentence.
Usage commentators disagree on whether not only and but (also) should frame parallel elements. Some grammarians advise strict adherence to parallelism; others are more relaxed about it. Here is H. W. Fowler in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage:
Not only out of its place is like a tintack loose on the floor; it might have been most serviceable somewhere else, & is capable of giving acute & undeserved pain where it is.
Bryan A. Garner in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage is equally severe, instructing that not only . . . but (also) “must frame syntactically identical sentence parts”. The advice in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage is more moderate. Reporting many literary and historical examples of non-parallel usage, it concludes:
So long as you take care that the groups of words joined by the conjunctions are not so dissimilar as to call attention to themselves, you need not worry all the time about achieving precise parallelism. It is more important for your sentence to sound natural and to make sense.
Not only and but (also) certainly have their uses, but they tend to be overworked in over-baked prose, where they occasionally fudge the contents or lead the reader astray. If you use them and you find the result awkward or ambiguous, try to recast the elements as I have shown, to improve the structure and balance of your sentence, and remember that and can often suffice for more complex constructions.
Thanks so much, this not only clarifies “not only… but also…” for me, but also addresses some unanswered questions I had regarding the phrase! The quote by Fowler is funny.
You’re very welcome, Elizabeth; I’m glad I could help. Yes, Fowler had a flair for vivid turns of phrase!
good…..but there were many i didnt understand because it reply and reply and reply then the words are not exatly in position……sorry….but this is the trurth i see in my eyes….
I was surprised to see the following sentence by Peggy Noonan: “Still, in the end, the Congress would not produce only an act of the most enormous human and political significance, the creation of America, it would provide history with one of the few instances in which a work of true literary genius was produced, in essence, by committee.”
I would have ordered the words to read “…Conghress would not only produce an act…., it would provide….” .
Am I being too fussy?
sorry for the typo–I meant to write “…Congress”, of course.
Joaquina: That is quite a strange word order. There’s no confusion, but I hesitated a little as I read it, since the usual not only… but also… construction is such a familiar formula. I’ve seen variations like Noonan’s before — but only rarely, and probably for a good reason.
But I have a doubt here. Is it possible that “not only” appears independently in a sentence, without “but (also)” anywhere in the same sentence?
Excellent post! I was particularly interested in the parallelism debate. I consider myself a strong believer in parallelism, but I don’t even consider the sentence
“The controversy not only damages sales but also shareholder confidence.”
to be a parallelism violation. It’s clear that the verb ‘damages’ governs both objects and is implied in the ‘but also’ clause:
“The controversy not only damages sales but also (damages) shareholder confidence.”
If all other elements of the sentence are parallel and there’s only one verb, how could there be any confusion?
More stylistically troublesome is the unnecessary separation of verbs from their objects. This tends to make sentences awkward and readers impatient. For example,
“My son wants not only a Bentley but also a chauffeur!”
I find the insertion of ‘not only’ between ‘wants’ and ‘Bentley’ sub-optimal. Better and more natural is:
“My son not only wants a Bentley but also a chauffeur!”
Anyway, thank you again for a highly informative post!
Corey: Thanks for your question. The short answer is yes. I already covered it, with an example, in the Usage part of the post. To repeat: “Writers typically, but not always, use both parts of the set”. I recently read an example of not only used without but (also), but I neglected to make a note of it, so I’ll borrow from the New Yorker again: “Rowers not only face backward, they race backward.”
Connie: Thank you for the kind words and useful points. We can look at parallelism as lying on a sliding scale of strictness or precision. So the form used in the sample sentence “The controversy not only damages sales but also shareholder confidence” is loosely but not fully parallel. How much this matters is for each writer and reader to decide; as you point out, it’s clear and natural enough as it is, and is in some ways better than excessive fussiness in the placement of not only.
I immensely enjoyed this read. I am extremely guilty of the not only/but, also infractions. I particular liked the fact that you highlighted other perspectives on the discussion as well. Great resource, I look forward to re-referencing this when necessary.
The Orange Velvet Couch: Thanks — I’m glad you found it helpful. Don’t feel too bound by strict parallelism in using “not only . . . but (also)”: there are usually several ways of saying the same thing, and looser forms can sometimes be more effective.
shalina’okkey: You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.
Fantastic. Thank you. Just used Not only…but in my blog today, correctly, I hope ;)
You’re very welcome, Christopher.
[…] 29. does a not only sentence have to have an also in it? [No.] […]
Thanks for reading, Kevin.
how to correct this senteces?
1.Jennifer sold not only the tickets but also conducted the tour.
2. You must visit a branch office when you are either in Houston or when you are in Santa Fe.
3. We made a special trip to watch the competition and presenting the awards.
shasha, you could rewrite them as follows:
1. Jennifer not only sold the tickets but also conducted the tour.
2. You must visit a branch office when you are either in Houston or in Santa Fe.
3. We made a special trip to watch the competition and awards presentation.
Now, to whom should I send the invoice? ;-)
To comma or not to comma? That is the question. There seems to be no consensus on this. I have always thought that if the subject is repeated in the second clause,(i.e. there are two independent clauses) the comma would be needed. If not, it could be omitted.
“The shape of Cleopatra’s nose influences not only wars, but ideologies.”
Or is the subject infered in the second clause thus necessitating a comma?
“The shape of Cleopatra’s nose influences not only wars, but (it also influences) ideologies.”
A quick survey of grammar websites supposedly explaining the correct usage of “not only…but also” will demonstrate the lack of agreement.
I was just asked this “comma or no comma” question by a 10-year-old EFL student that I teach. What say ye my fellow native speakers?
What if “not only and but also ” used in combining two subject.
e.g. Sonya makes a cake.
Bernard makes a cake.
Not only Sonya but also Bernard …………a cake.
(the answer is make or makes?)
Russ: To comma or not to comma? Either. I see no need to introduce an unnecessary rule. Go with whichever sounds better. Longer and more complex clauses might be made clearer through the use of a comma; shorter ones might not.
ikhsan: makes is used in that case.
Thanks Stan. Thatt’s pretty much the way I see it. The point of punctuation should be to facilitate clarity. While a certain degree of “correctness” and standardization is certainly necessary to ensure that a writer’s thoughts are effectively conveyed to his/her readers, sometimes it seems that certain grammar rules have little functional significance other than to exist as “rules”. As an EFL teacher, I am often asked for definitive rules of grammar and usage or to explain descrepancies among grammar books. I usually point out that for some languages (e.g. Spanish) there is a “Supreme Court” institution that has the final say on what is correct, but English has no such final authority. To a degree, common usage among popularly respected authors often tends to guide and dictate what is “correct”. I ain’t no expert, but that there’s how I reckon it. Thanks again for your help.
You’re welcome, Russ; thanks for your visits and comments. I agree that punctuation should serve clarity first and foremost. There are rules, of course, but perhaps fewer and of a different nature to what is sometimes supposed.
Learners are drawn to simple rules, and some people adopt them (and might even try to enforce them) as eternal, unbreakable tenets, but the truth is generally more complex and mutable. Take for example the widespread rejection of comma splices that takes no account of the technique’s acceptability in certain styles and contexts.
thanks stan for this helps me a lot. the way i found out the way of how to use the correlative conjunction not only but also
Glad it helped, Jerald.
[…] https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/not-only-but-also/ Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Uncategorized ← Grammar post##1–raymond […]
excellent explanation, thanks so much.
You’re very welcome, Cesar.
Thanks very much you’re a helpful friend
I’m glad it was helpful, Fahmi.
Is it okay to link two complete sentences with not only… but also if the subjects are different?
Not only did it rain all day, but also the wind broke my umbrella.
Andrea: I think that line works better without also.
“Not only have obtained adequate qualification, but also gotten a very good results of Master course”
Please check this sentence is right or wrong? The first I used past perfect and the second I used simple past”?
Thanks so much….
Vlad: You’re welcome.
HAN: The line needs a few fixes. Assuming it’s first person singular:
“Not only have I obtained adequate qualification, but I have also gotten
avery good results ofin a Master‘s course.”
I just googled “not only but also” and not surprised to see your blog as the first result! Not only was your post entertaining, it was also just what I needed to find the mistake in my sentence :)
Thanks, Keri! I’m happy it helped.
Which of the two sentences below is the correct one?
“As in the case of breach, not only the guarantees and money would be lost, but also the company would become ineligible (…)”
“As in the case of breach, not only would the guarantees and money be lost, but also the company would become ineligible (…)”
The second one, Andres.
Thank you very much!!
How to correct this:
The tournament will be attended by teams which include not only leading Polish athletes but also of the world
Juta: You could write: “The tournament will be attended by teams which include leading athletes not only from Poland but also from around the world.”
plz correct it, if it is wrong ……
he not only plays football, but also cricket.
malik: It’s not precisely parallel, but it’s not wrong.
stan: thanks dear ………
You’re welcome, but don’t call me ‘dear’.
U and ur posts not only help me but also will make my students clear.Anyway thanks:)
you blog is not only interesting but educative.please send me some use of english structures in my email.thanks in advance
phyo: Glad I could help. :-)
samuel: Thank you. Examples are easy to find, online and off.
thank you for your help :)
not only i understand but also i will use
You’re welcome, Gabriel. Thanks for reading.
Is this correct structure? “I felt that not only had I gained an insight into these people’s culture, but I also learned how to communicate across language barriers.” Thanks!
The more I read the examples, the more I have second-thoughts about my grammar in general… :( I want to drop the “but”, but then this will make the structure into “not only… also”, which appears to be weird.
Tina: Yes, the line is fine as it is. It would also be OK without but. My post includes a couple of examples of good edited writing where not only is not followed by but. It’s not a rule, just different degrees and types of parallelism. Trust your ear (or a neighbour’s).
Thanks Stan! Sometimes I feel that the more I read examples, the more I get confused on usage. I’ll try to trust my ears.
In Tina’s example (“I felt that not only had I gained an insight into these people’s culture, but I also learned how to communicate across language barriers.”), the second part is parallel to the first only if we start immediately after the “but,” not after the “also.” That makes sense to me; there are rules for determining where an adverb such as “also” should go, so the “also” doesn’t “count” for purposes of parallelism. Is that right?
But one of your examples is this: “He not only used a fictitious example, but he reproduced it too.” There seems to be a lack of parallelism here. Is that just because, as you’ve said, there’s disagreement among the “experts” on how precise the parallelism needs to be?
But then Wilson Follett, in Modern American Usage (I don’t think there’s a second edition, but if there is, I’m referring to the first edition), gives the following as examples of proper usage. And I thought he was such a stickler for parallelism!
“Readers will find that they are not only in contact with a cross section of American achievement, but are also invited to enjoy a generous helping of human nature.” (p. 212)
“The lifeboat is not only ready to save the occupants of our Ship of State, but can also be dispatched to the assistance of others.” (p. 212)
Can you give an explanation please?
Fred: Yes: there is, as you infer, disagreement among authorities over how precise the parallelism needs to be. The natural syntax or style of a sentence doesn’t always lend itself to perfect parallelism, and I see no problem so long as it reads well (though there’s a degree of subjectivity about this, of course). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage says:
You might also be interested in a more recent post I wrote on faulty parallelism.
My grammar book says the sentence ‘Not only is she wise but also beautiful’ is wrong and the correct version is ‘She is not only wise but also beautiful.’ Can u please explain me why the first sentence is wrong?
Also, is the following sentence wrong?
Not only David passed but also got a distinction.
Or should i use, Not only did David pass but also got a distinction?
Hi Ramit. I wouldn’t call your first example wrong, but it could be phrased much better, as in the “correct version”. Your book considers it wrong because its author advocates precise parallelism, but this is not so strict a requirement as some authorities believe. My post has a detailed explanation of this.
The second sentence is wrong, and your revision also needs work. Options include: “David not only passed but also got a distinction” and “Not only did David pass, but he also got a distinction.”
Thanks a lot. So it means if we want to rewrite the first sentence as per the strict parallelism, that would be ‘Not only is she wise but she is also beautiful.’ ok, great.
i also have some other grammar queries which are not related to ‘not only.. But also’, can i ask here or do u have some other portal for such queries?
M finding ur posts very helpful. Thanks.
You’re welcome, Ramit. If you have other grammar queries it would be best to address them elsewhere. Use the search function in the blog’s right-hand column to see if I’ve covered the topic already, or email me using the address on this page. I can’t promise I’ll have time to answer it, but I am available for hire as a freelance writer and editor.
Just wanted to say that although this is the fourth grammar result when you Google “not only but also,” it’s definitely the most useful of the four. MS Word’s grammar checker has been insisting that I must use “also.” I was not only relieved to learn that it’s not actually required, but delighted to learn it from a web site where a self-referential example would seem likely to be appreciated.
Glad I could help, Eric, and thanks for your comment. Google results vary a lot from one user to the next, but this post has proved surprisingly popular and seems to rank quite highly for “not only but also”–related queries, if my incoming search terms are any indication.
I am writing an article about finance. Can you please tell me whether the following sentence is correctly formed or not:
“The net present value method is used not only to evaluate investment projects that generate cash inflow but also to evaluate investment projects that reduce costs.”
Thanks in advance.
It’s correctly formed, yes, but it could be greatly simplified.
How would you simplify this sentence?
“The net present value method is used to evaluate investment projects that generate cash inflow or that reduce costs.”
please correct the sentence. Not only Aslam goes to school but also does shopping for his family. Thanks
There are several options. The simplest is to move “not only” after “Aslam”; everything else remains the same.
Thank you so much for the great explanation. I’d been reading and learning about the grammar of NOT only…. But also, for hours and I couldn’t find any good source until I found it here. It was so useful. The way you write and use so many nice words helped me grasp it easily. I really love learning English and writing essays. I will have my TOEFL exam on 25th of August and still not well prepared. Last year I took TOEFL and I got 25 out of 30 and I really like to improve my score this year since I can’t afford to take the exam again. ( you 190 $ might seem nothing to you guys but it’s my whole salary in one month.)
I just wanted to thank you and say that you are a great person that share you knowledge with learners.
Is this sentence true?
“Not only will the number of cars in a few next decades stay the same as the number of cars now, but the number of cars will increase as well.”
I thought this might be true, as I found this sentence in a Dictionary.
“Both pieces of information are being presented by the writer as surprising or unexpected, with the second one being even more surprising than the first”
Thanks in advance.
Sima: You’re very welcome, and thank you for the kind words; I’m glad you found my post so useful.
The sentence you quote is problematic, because it presents two statements as true when they are in fact contradictory. The number of cars will either stay the same or it will increase/decrease; it can’t do both.
Best of luck with your TOEFL exam!
WOW. Just now I could totally grasp the meaning. Thank you….
See, I had used this sentence in one of my writings :
Not only are people willing to give up using their cars, but also they are more eager to buy new durable cars and use them to raise their living standards. Now I understand that they are contradictory indeed. I change it this way:
Not only are people willing to use their cars more, but also they are more eager to buy new durable cars and use them to raise their living standards.
As for the sentence I got help from you, I can revise it like this:
Not only will the number of cars increase in a few next decades, but high ways will accommodate more cars as well.
Isn’t it better now?
Thank you. I hope God helps you in every steps you take in life.
The revised line makes more sense, but it needs minor changes, as follows:
“Not only will the number of cars increase in the next few decades, but highways will accommodate more cars as well.”
Thank you so much :) Thanks a million…………..
I googled the correct punctuation of the “not only, but also” sentence construction and found your explanation of the usage of this phrase and the comments to be quite informative and interesting, Stan. Thanks for your obvious knowledge and kind responses, even for your directness to the one who referred to you as “dear,” but especially for your kindness toward and patience with those who are learning English. I’ve now subscribed to your blog, which is unusual for me because I’m a reluctant and somewhat incompetent user of technology, despite being an educational researcher in a state education agency. Thank you, Stan, whoever you are.
You’re welcome, Vinetta, and thank you for your visit and very kind words. I meant the “dear” comment to sound half-amused, but it can be difficult to convey tone well in short statements to strangers online, and I wasn’t quite sure of the other person’s intention. Anyway, I hope the post was helpful, and I’m happy you’ve subscribed. If there’s a particular topic you’re wondering if I’ve covered, try the search box in the right-hand sidebar (just above the “blogroll” of links), or send me an email (details here).
Thank you, Stan. My work computer won’t let me confirm my subscription to your blog; however, I will check your blog periodically. You are worth the read.
[…] but it can be. Not only without but also may be “very annoying” to Marsh, but the lack of parallelism is often no big deal, and the omission can even be beneficial. […]
I was totally confused how to use ‘not only……. but also” in a sentence. This web site has helped me a lot to understand the usage of them. Thank you very much.
You’re very welcome, Joseph. Glad it helped.
All of your examples consist of one sentence, which I always thought was correct when using not only…but. However, the New Yorker did it this way:
Not only did Angleton single-handedly immobilize his own agency. He then, with his master’s blessing, performed the same service for its closest allies, to the ribald laughter of the K.G.B.
What are your thoughts on breaking it up into two sentences? It sounds wrong to me, like the first sentence is just kind of hanging there. (Although now that I’ve read it about a dozen times in the font used in this comment box, it’s looking less offensive, for some reason.)
Deb: Good observation. In the example you’ve given, I’d be inclined to use a colon instead of a full stop. But it’s not wrong. The first sentence is left hanging a bit, fragmentarily, but that’s a stylistic choice that impels the reader on to the next. As I said, it wouldn’t be my preference, but I don’t object to its occasional use.
Can I say that “Not only did John approve of my project but also give me some serious information”? Or must I say that “Not only did John approve of my project but he also gave me some serious information”?
TrungRomano: The second one. Alternatively, “John not only approved . . . but also gave . . .”.
Stan, couldn’t you also word it this way? John not only approved of my project but also gave me some serious information.
Yes, Vinetta – my reply to TrungRomano includes this option.
You’re right, Stan. Sorry about that. (smile) Again, the tone of your response to your blog followers impresses me.
Not a problem, Vinetta. Your contributions are welcome in any case.
please correct this sentence
john likes apples.His friends also like apples
Thank you, Stan. I’ll accept your offer by responding to Tony. (I also look forward to your reply to Tony, Stan.) Tony, are you asking for revision using sentence combining, not sentence correction? The only errors I see in your sentences are the lack of an initial cap for the proper noun, John, and the lack of a space between the two sentences. Otherwise, you seem to be asking for sentence combining, which is a still valid writing theory from years past.
Tony, your comment doesn’t really relate to the post I’ve written, but because you asked nicely… Your sentence is actually two sentences, and they’re already grammatically correct. You can fix their style by following Vinetta’s suggestions, and also by adding a full stop at the end.
I’ve got a question: how do I use “not only.. but also” in a present perfect sentence?
for example: Joseph not only has done his homework, but also has watched tv.
is this correct?
thank you so much!
Hello, Ninaa. You can use it various ways in the present perfect tense. Your sentence is correct, and so are these:
Thank you so much!
I have a question about a unfinished sentence, can you help?
Maybe. What is it?
[…] can appear when we use coordinating conjunctions such as and, or, and but, or pairs of correlative conjunctions such as either… or, neither… nor, both… and, and not only… but also.… […]
It is rather confusing explaining this rule with so many examples. By the way, there is not even one using “Not Only” in the beginning of the phrase.
The best way to explain this rule would be by using the same example in every possible construction way, instead of so many different ones.
I have to keep looking for a more concise answer, using my criteria above.
‘there is not even one using “Not Only” in the beginning of the phrase’
Yes, there are.
‘The best way to explain this rule…’
Here’s the problem. It’s not a rule, because there isn’t a rule; rather, there are conventions of style. It’s not simple and concise: it’s messy. But thanks for your visit.
Can u explain it with two subjects for example Ram is handsome Rohsn is handsome too (not only ,but also)
Ramesh: You could say “Not only is Ram handsome, but Rohsn is handsome too.” But it would be more straightforward to say something like “Ram and Rohsn are both handsome.”
Extremely enlightening post. Being a teacher of IELTS and exam English, these nuances may be interesting, but it also gets me thinking. My students sometimes ask me things that are addressed above and I’m tempted to share the above post.
However, their scripts are going to be marked by examiners who may be very “prescriptive” in their thinking and thus as a teacher it’s best for me to make things simple and teach it in a way that it’s likely to be accepted by examiners.
That’s a very valid point, Jonathan. If learners are going to be marked based on a strict and oversimplified interpretation of what counts as correct, then that should generally (if regrettably) be taught. Sometimes it may be appropriate to note that things are more complicated than the ‘rule’ being presented, but that for the time being or for the purpose of examination the simple structure must suffice. I’m glad you found the post enlightening in any case.
So, if I say, “she didn’t only run, but she also screamed.”, would this be acceptable sentence structure?!!!!
(I mean putting the first verb in the negative form whatever its tense is)
Thanks a lot
nanna: Yes, it’s acceptable. You could also say ‘She not only ran…’, or omit but.
I found your post not only informative but relatable.
I hope you will read my blog not only for information but enjoyment!
Thank you, Rosa.
“maryum is playinh either she play with ahmed” IS IT WRONG OR RIGHT
It’s wrong, and the meaning is unclear.
Hi, I found your posts very useful.
I’d be truly grateful if you could enlighten me as to whether the following sentence is grammatical or not:
“Our School is not only one of the top schools in our country, but has also developed into a world-famous educational institution.”
My boss said the above sentence was not grammatical because “not only” was followed by an “is + (adjective)” clause while “but also” was followed by a “verb” clause. (Sorry, I am not very familiar with grammar jargon).
She rewrote the sentence as follows:
“Our School has become not only one of the top schools in our country but also a world-famous educational institution.”
Having read this post of yours (esp. the sentence “Not only is this post quite long and detailed, it also lacks images …) and the 2nd example @ the link below, I feel even more aggrieved. While my original sentence may not be “better” than her rewritten version, it is NOT UNgrammatical. Right?
Hi Cheryl, I’m glad you found my posts helpful. In my opinion your original line, though it needs improving, is grammatical. Parallelism (and its lack) is generally more a matter of style than grammar. But there are grey areas over what grammar is, as I summarise here, and what people find grammatical or not.
On the not only . . . but also construction, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage says:
It goes on to quote several examples from literature, before concluding:
You might also be interested in other posts I’ve written about parallelism.
Many thanks for your prompt reply and opinion.
I will certainly read more of your posts.
How would you improve my original line?
It can be profitably recast in several ways, e.g.:
Our school is not only one of the best in the country, it has also developed into a world-famous educational institution.
Not only is our school one of the best in the country, it has also developed into a world-famous educational institution.
The surrounding context is likely to affect which of these (or another version) would read best. I edit professionally, for what it’s worth.
Is the sentence -not only the bride was beautiful but also was well accomplished
Your question is unfinished – I assume you want to ask if the sentence is correct. It isn’t. Try: the bride was not only beautiful but also well accomplished.
What about a sentence like “Not only him, but I am attending as well` would you use he or him in this instance or change the sentence structure completely?
The structure should be changed, e.g.: Not only is he attending, but I am as well.
what about a sentence like- Its almost as if they live in different time zones and different countries
I would not use the not only…but also construction with that line at all.
They live in different time zones and different countries.(Rewrite the sentence using not only ,……but also)
You’re welcome. Thanks for visiting.
Please help me with this question as I searched a lot of site looking for answer but I couldn’t. My question is……….
If ( not only …………..but also ) joins two subjects and one is singular and the other is plural, which subject does the verb agree with? e.g.
1- Not only Johan but also his sister speak / speaks French.
2- Not only John’s parents but also his sister speak / speaks French.
3- Not only John’s sister but also his parents speak / speaks French.
Thanks in advance.
In cases like that, make the verb agree with the immediate noun: (1) speaks, (2) speaks, (3) speak. But I would rephrase those lines instead, as the not only . . . but also structure is a bit verbose.
Can you tell me ?
Why not only but also is used in the beginning of the sentence ?
It depends on the sentence and the context. Its position can change the focus or the stress a little.
there is an adverb be used to replace not only… but also…
I’m just wondering as to what are the correct sentences of below.
(1) Neither Peter nor Ann cook rice.
(2) Neither Peter nor Ann cooks rice.
(3) Not only George but also Victor read newspapers.
(4) Not only George but also Victor reads newspapers.
Lines 2 and 4 are preferred (though 3 and 4 are both pretty strange). See my post at Macmillan Dictionary Blog for more on number and the use of neither.
Your guidance is really helpful. Thanks…
I have a doubt on the below. Please tell me how many lines are there in the following song. Is it 5, 7 or 10. Please advise me.
A Time to Talk
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
By Robert Frost
The poem has 10 lines. This page counts the lines alongside. Please try to keep future comments on topic.
It was very efficient (not only but also)
Great to find some content on grammar that acknowledges the existence of nuance in relation to timing, rhythm and emphasis.
Thank you. Since there’s so much leeway for correctness with this phrase, a lot comes down to style. It would be remiss to ignore that.
Yes, the distinction between style and grammar is key, although of course they are interwoven concepts. In a pedagogical setting, the need for simplicity and summary tend to result in the neglect of style. Funnily enough, I find it is usually other teachers who are most resistant to the idea of retaining a sense of the immense potential of language, while students of an appropriate level often respond well to the notion of personal expression!
Please assist. Which is the correct way to combine the following two sentences starting with “Not only . . . but also”?
She stated that they needed a financial plan. She stated that they needed financial management.
There are several equally acceptable ways to combine them. I suggest: ‘She stated that they needed not only a financial plan but also financial management.’
And consider replacing ‘She stated that they needed’ with the more natural-sounding ‘She said they needed’, unless highly formal language is desired.
Hi, i would like to know which one is right?
1. Not only can back pain affect mobility but it can also cause financial crisis.
2. Back pain can not only affect the mobility but it can also leads to financial crisis.
#1 is fine as it is. Either approach is okay, but be careful of grammatical errors. I would use #2 and rewrite it thus: Back pain not only affects mobility but can also lead to financial crisis.
Thank you for your sharing. The information is very useful.
I am a bit confused in what situation the subject in the 2nd clause is necessary.
We can swim there. We can also do barbecue there.
Are the following correct?
1. We can not only swim, but we can also do barbecue there.
2. We can not only swim, but can also do barbecue there.
3. We can not only swim, but also do barbecue there.
4. Not only can we swim, but we can also do barbecue there.
5. Not only can we swim, but can also do barbecue there.
4. Not only can we swim, but also do barbecue there.
#3 and #4 are the most correct, though I would omit the comma in #3. The others are all non-parallel in various ways and to varying degrees. In less formal contexts it’s sometimes better to omit the ‘but’ when you’re repeating the grammatical subject (in this case ‘we’), as in #1.
Thank you very much for your help. It’s so useful.
[…] the lack of ‘also’, which is often, though not always, included in the formula? (See my post on not only . . . but (also) for discussion.) Does the unnecessary comma detract from the emotional force of the thought? Or is […]
I like both the euphony/rhythm and the flow of “not only…. but also” – by including ‘also’ and without any comma.
Sir I have a query… if helping Verb is added according to the closest subject then if we get sentence in question form what helping verb will be used please I am very much confused regarding this point
thank you !
Which sentence is correct?
a. Is not only Anne but also her friends interested in watching the movie .
b. Are not only Annie but also her friends interested in watching the movie ?
Sometimes trying to apply not only . . . but also makes things more complicated than they need to be, and the structure should be dropped. Neither (a) nor (b) sounds very natural to me, so I would recast the sentence along these lines: Is it just Anne who is interested in watching the movie, or are her friends interested too?
THANK YOU SO MUCH SIR .still if I had to make with the help of.. not only..but also…
I would be highly obliged to you.. because it is needed for subject Verb Agreement chaptet to explain students..
Hi. Please help me with this sentence, “Haste……poor results but also may cause accidents.” I have to put “not only/ produce” in the gap. Because of the model verb “may”, I’m not sure whether “Haste not only produces poor results…” or “Haste does not only produce poor results…” is correct.
Thanks for your help.
I really appreciate that.
Hi, Autumn. There are a few ways to do this. I would write it as: “Haste not only produces poor results but may also cause accidents.”