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    #1

    Talking confused about negative sentences

    Sometimes, I'm very confused about the meaning of negative sentences. For example, in Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL, iBT Listening, 2nd, I saw a sentence (in the answer):
    "He is not in class all the time"
    I don't know whether it means "He is always not in class" or "He is not always in class", and how can I know it?
    Thanks in advance!

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    #2

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by khanhhung2512 View Post
    "He is not in class all the time"
    I don't know whether it means "He is always not in class" or "He is not always in class", and how can I know it?
    Both meanings are possible, though the "He is always not in class" meaning is unlikely .

    Your sentence is much more likely to mean, "He is not always in class". If we wanted to express the other meaning, we would be far more likely to say, "He is never in class". or, possibly, "He is absent from class all the time".

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    #3

    Wink Re: confused about negative sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Both meanings are possible, though the "He is always not in class" meaning is unlikely .

    Your sentence is much more likely to mean, "He is not always in class". If we wanted to express the other meaning, we would be far more likely to say, "He is never in class". or, possibly, "He is absent from class all the time".
    Thank you very much!
    I have another question. How could I understand the meaning of such confusing sentences like that in the future?

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    #4

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    The wider context will often make things clearer. Where there are two possible interpretations, people may have to make a decision, based on which is more likely. To get the always not meaning of your example, most people would probably use something like He's never in class.

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    #5

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    Do the intonation, rhythm or stress of speakers help me to understand and how?
    For instance, in that sentence "He is not in class all the time"

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    #6

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by khanhhung2512 View Post
    Do the intonation, rhythm or stress of speakers help me to understand and how?
    For instance, in that sentence
    Yes, these things can help.

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    #7

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    I think, in the "He is not in class all the time", if we stress "all the time", the sentence means "He is always not in class", if we don't stress "all the time", it means "He is not always in class".
    Is what I think right?

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    #8

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by khanhhung2512 View Post
    I think, in the "He is not in class all the time", if we stress "all the time", the sentence means "He is always not in class", if we don't stress "all the time", it means "He is not always in class".
    Is what I think right?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) I think that you are correct about stress.

    (2) School principal/headmaster: I have to expel your son. He never

    comes to class.

    Mother: I understand, sir. Unfortunately, it is true: my little darling

    is not in class ALL (!!!) OF (!!!) THE (!!!) TIME (!!!). (He is always

    not in class.)

    ***

    (3) School principal: I have to expel your daughter. She never

    comes to class.

    Mother: That is not true! Although my little darling Mona is not in

    class ALL (!!!) of the time, she does (!!!) come one day every week!!!

    (She is not always in class.)

    P.S. Please remember what the teachers told you: native speakers

    prefer to express those ideas in a different way.

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    #9

    Re: confused about negative sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by khanhhung2512 View Post
    I think, in the "He is not in class all the time", if we stress "all the time", the sentence means "He is always not in class", if we don't stress "all the time", it means "He is not always in class".
    Is what I think right?
    You are right.


    • He is not in class all the time.
      • meaning, he is never in class.



    • He is not in class all the time.
      • meaning, he is in class sometimes.

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