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    • Join Date: Feb 2005
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    #1

    both...not

    Hi,

    In grammar books, 'both...not' is usually defined as expressing partial negation, as in
    'Both Peter and Tom are not doctors' (which means either Peter or Tom is a doctor).

    I wonder if it is possible that this sentence can mean 'neither Peter nor Tom is a doctor'...if no, how is complete negation expressed in sentences containing phrases such as both, all, and every?

    Thank you!

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #2

    Re: both...not

    "Both Peter and Tom are not doctors" (which means either Peter or Tom is a doctor).
    That's correct. "Both . . . not" expresses two possibilities: "both . . . not" as in neither of the two, and "both . . . not" as in only one:

    #1 Both are not doctors. (Neither is a doctor)
    #2 Both are not doctors. (Only one is a doctor)

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    #3

    Re: both...not

    1. John and Ken are not both soccer fans.
    2. Both the brothers don't play the violin.
    3. The brothers don't both play the violin.
    Do the above sentences mean partial negation or complete negation?
    Last edited by sitifan; 06-Nov-2008 at 04:15.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: both...not

    Both aren't doctors means that one could be.
    Both don't play tennis means that one could play.

    Neither one is a doctor is clear. Neither plays tennins is clear.


    All 3 of your sentences means that one could.

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    #5

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: both...not

    Yes.
    Every window is an opening.
    Every opening is not a window. (Some are, some are not.)

    Every eagle is a bird.
    Every bird is not an eagle. (Some birds are. Most are not.)
    Not every bird is an eagle. (Some birds are. Most are not.)

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: both...not

    Quote Originally Posted by sitifan View Post
    I'd interpret the original sentences differently from Barb. This only means that ambiguous sentences should be rewritten.
    "Every bird is not an eagle. (Some birds are. Most are not.)"
    This means (to me) that no bird is an eagle. (How can some birds be eagles when every bird is not an eagle?)

    There might be regional differences in how people interpret ambiguous sentences. If your sentence can reasonably be interpreted in two or more ways, you should rewrite it (unless you want to remain ambiguous for poetic, political or comedic reasons).

  5. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: both...not

    Negations are VERY confusing and often what one person thinks is entirely clear another person finds ambiguous.

    And remember, conversations have context.
    A: ... and since all birds are eagles...
    B: Wait one second! That's not true! Not every bird is an eagle! There are plenty of other types of birds besides eagles!

    That would be entirely clear, even to someone who took the original statemet (in isolation) as having a different meaning.

    I would say "no fish are whales" rather than "not every fish is a whale." The way I hear the second one is that there are some fish that are whles.

    Regional differences, preconceived ideas, and context will change how you hear things!

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