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What's the difference between these two?

  1. "He is not obviously guilty."
  2. "He is obviously not guilty."

1 Answer 1

9

The first sentence, "He is not obviously guilty", is saying that the fact that he is guilty is not obvious. In this case, "obviously" is an adjective modifying "guilty". "Not" negates the phrase "obviously guilty".

The second sentence, "He is obviously not guilty", is saying that it is obvious that he is not guilty. In this case, the "not" is only negating "guilty". Since "obviously" comes before, it modifies the negation of "guilty".

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  • Nice answer. So if I might add, "He is not obviously guilty" means the fact that he's guilty is not 100%. While "He is obviously not guilty" means that the fact that he's guilty is guaranteed 100%.
    – Safira
    Oct 30, 2013 at 1:09
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    @Safira I think you meant that the other way around. He is not obviously guilty means that he might be guilty or he might not be guilty. In any case, his guilt is not obvious. He is obviously not guilty means he is certainly not guilty.
    – terdon
    Oct 30, 2013 at 1:14
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    But be mindful of punctuation, a couple commas can change the whole thing: He's not, obviously, guilty. Which means he's not guilty, and the fact that he's not should be obvious.
    – Jim
    Oct 30, 2013 at 1:53

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