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If I say this:

You don't have only what it takes to master English but all the languages.

For you, is it a compliment or an insult? The usage of "only" and "have" is a little bit confusing.

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2 Answers

This is not the sentence of a native English-speaker. Perhaps the intent is something more akin to the following:

You have not only what it takes to master English, but all languages.

This is a compliment. "You" have "what it takes" (skill, aptitude, will) to master English, but beyond that, your skill, aptitude, and will would enable you to master any language.

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I'd put "not only" even closer to "English" (to go with "all languages"), like: "You have what it takes to master not only English, but all languages." –  ShreevatsaR Jan 7 '11 at 10:06
    
+1 for explaining what the sentence mean, although it is not very well phrased. –  awe Jan 7 '11 at 12:13
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A person either has or does not have "what it takes to master English". To compliment a speaker by saying that he/she could do equally well in other languages, one would use not only or not just to introduce the sentiment that English is not the sole language the speaker could excel in.

These are compliments:

  • You have what it takes to master not only English but also any/every other language.
  • You have what it takes to master not just English but [also] all the languages.

These are insults:

  • You don't have what it takes to master English, let alone any other language.
  • You don't have what it takes to master English, or any other language for that matter.
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+1 for providing examples of how the sentence should be said to be more correct. –  awe Jan 7 '11 at 12:14
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