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Which is correct?

The thief carried the knife carefully so as not to cut himself.

The thief carried the knife carefully not to cut himself.

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Just a note: "The thief" is third person, and "so as not to cut himself" is a deduction that implies first person knowledge. Unless "the thief" is the narrator, or you are using an omniscient narrator, you may wish to reconcile this discrepancy in perspective. E.g. "The thief carried the knife carefully, as if he was afraid of cutting himself." –  TLP Oct 15 '11 at 16:46
@TLP: I think your omniscient narrator perspective is taking things a bit far. If the writer were going to be that precise, he'd certainly be likely to use the subjunctive! –  FumbleFingers Oct 15 '11 at 22:19
@FumbleFingers Why do you think having an omniscient narrator is taking things too far? –  TLP Oct 15 '11 at 23:17
@TLP: I just do. I don't deny that there's a faint nod in the direction of omniscient narrator where the writer tells us something of a character's motivations, rather than just his actions. But sticking with your Wikipedia link, one could just as easily say it's third person limited or third person intimate. Anyway, that's all literary criticism, and we're only really concerned with OP's grammar here. –  FumbleFingers Oct 15 '11 at 23:25
Mostly this is simply a stylistic choice, though in the second sentence I'd put a comma between "carefully" and "not". –  Mark Beadles Dec 12 '12 at 15:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The first one. The second one sounds quite awkward, and in fact one way I can think of to improve it would be to add a comma: "The thief carried the knife carefully, not to cut himself". The slight pause is meant to suggest the missing "so as"!

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I guess I don't need to start a new thread for this. I want to translate "Je prends mon temps pour ne pas le perdre", meaning: I take my time in order not to lose it. Now this is not a translation question, as I want to know the best way to somehow make it sound 'more English' yet natural... Which option is the best:

-I take my time so as not to lose it. -I take my time so as to lose it not. Or perhaps simply: -I take my time not to lose it. -I take my time to lose it not. -Thank you all.

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I think the second alternative "The thief carried the knife carefully not to cut himself" is confusing, possibly incorrect. It would instead be used in this manner, I think:

The thief carried the knife carelessly, not to cut himself, but because he was in a hurry.

(And I replaced carefully with carelessly, otherwise the sentence would make no sense.)

Have a look at this explanation: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=698972&p=3849845#post3849845

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