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  1. #1
    tara is offline Member
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    Question Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Hello,
    I have a question.

    I learnt that double negative can be paraphrased as positive sentence
    at school.

    When I came across a sentence "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse",
    I thought it can be translated as "It's exactly an offer I could refuse".


    A native speaker of English who is American, however, explained me
    "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse" is the same meaning of "Not exactly
    an offer I could refuse", and it's a way of emphasizing.

    They seem completely opposite for me, and I'm still not convinced how
    they can be the same meaning.

    Could you please help me understand it?

    Thank you,
    Tara

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    The fiirst sentence is unnatural. the speaker probably conflated 'I couldn't refuse an offer like that' and 'Not exactly an offer I could refuse'.

  3. #3
    JMurray is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    I disagree with your friend. I think "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse" means "It's an offer that I could refuse". Although, as 5jj says, the first example is not entirely natural, I believe it's phrased in this way because it references the famous line from The Godfather movie: "My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse". It implies that the "offer" involves some kind of unpleasant consequences if the person doesn't go along with it.
    Variations on this phrase, which draw in some way on the Godfather meaning, have become quite common and almost always have the form "made someone an offer he/she/they couldn't refuse". I feel that even if it's in the more normal sense of just a strongly persuasive offer, people often say "They made him an offer he couldn't refuse" with a nod to The Godfather.

    not a teacher

  4. #4
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Quote Originally Posted by JMurray View Post
    I disagree with your friend. I think "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse" means "It's an offer that I could refuse". Although, as 5jj says, the first example is not entirely natural, I believe it's phrased in this way because it references the famous line from The Godfather movie: "My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse". It implies that the "offer" involves some kind of unpleasant consequences if the person doesn't go along with it.
    I hadn't thought of that possibility.

  5. #5
    tara is offline Member
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Hello 5jj,

    Thank you very much for your kind explanation.
    So this is not a double negative sentense.
    The construction of the sentence was very confusing for me,
    but "conflated" sounds very convincing.

    Thank you again for clearing up my quesiton.
    Tara

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    The fiirst sentence is unnatural. the speaker probably conflated 'I couldn't refuse an offer like that' and 'Not exactly an offer I could refuse'.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Quote Originally Posted by tara View Post
    Hello 5jj,

    Thank you very much for your kind explanation.
    So this is not a double negative sentense.
    JMurray's response also makes sense.

    There is no clearly right answer, in my opinion.

  7. #7
    tara is offline Member
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Hello JMurray,

    Thank you very much for your detailed explanation.
    I like "Godfather" and watched the trilogy several times,
    but never realized that the line is so famous.
    So there's a possibility that the sentense has the opposite meaning...
    It's good to know.

    Thank you,
    Tara



    Quote Originally Posted by JMurray View Post
    I disagree with your friend. I think "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse" means "It's an offer that I could refuse". Although, as 5jj says, the first example is not entirely natural, I believe it's phrased in this way because it references the famous line from The Godfather movie: "My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse". It implies that the "offer" involves some kind of unpleasant consequences if the person doesn't go along with it.
    Variations on this phrase, which draw in some way on the Godfather meaning, have become quite common and almost always have the form "made someone an offer he/she/they couldn't refuse". I feel that even if it's in the more normal sense of just a strongly persuasive offer, people often say "They made him an offer he couldn't refuse" with a nod to The Godfather.

    not a teacher

  8. #8
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Would you like an evening out with dinner and dancing, then cocktails, with Brad Pitt?
    Wow. That's an offer I couldn't refuse.

    Would you like an evening in a dark cellar, eating worms and drinking bleach, with Hannibal Lecter?
    That's not an offer I couldn't refuse.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  9. #9
    tara is offline Member
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Hello 5jj,

    I understand.
    Thank you very much for taking your time.

    Tara

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    JMurray's response also makes sense.

    There is no clearly right answer, in my opinion.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Double negative "Not exactly an offer I couldn't refuse"

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Would you like an evening out with dinner and dancing, then cocktails, with Brad Pitt?
    Wow. That's an offer I couldn't refuse.
    I could!

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