For example: [Amy] found [Bob] to not only have a [good sense of humour] but able to [do other impressive things] due to [Bob's personality] and [wealth]

The above is just a random example where I filled in the blanks. The structure I wanted to ask if it was grammatically correct is in the title.

See, I'm a native speaker of English and I used this structure in passing when writing to a friend (ESL learner) who says I'm wrong to use it like that, whereas I think it sounds right, but can't explain why.

Help pls? Thx guys.

closed as off-topic by ab2, Cascabel, Rand al'Thor, NVZ, Hellion Feb 6 '17 at 23:05

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  • Try to be more specific as to what you suspect could be "wrong". One can only ask one question per post. – Kris Jan 13 '14 at 7:46
  • Very late comment, but one clear problem (not addressed in the answer below) is that the second element is lacking a required helping verb; if you remove the 'not only' bit, it becomes "Amy found Bob to able to do other things...". – Hellion Feb 6 '17 at 23:05

Traditionally, English speakers are taught not to split infinitives, that is, not to put anything between to and its verb. That may be what your friend is objecting too. But the ban on split infinitives is (rightly, in my opinion) derided by a large number of linguists and grammarians.

To my mind, the more substantive issue is with the use of not only. For perfect parallelism, the construction should be either of the following:

I found Bob not ADJ but ADJ.

I found Bob to not only VERB but VERB.

You’ve mixed the two: I found Bob to not only VERB but ADJ. So, if you fill in the ellipsis here (which is everything up to not only), you end up with:

I found Bob to not only VERB but [I found Bob to] ADJ.

Needless to say, I found Bob to ADJ is ungrammatical, which means that the large structure is also ungrammatical.

One solution is, for once, to follow the proscription against infinitive splitting:

I found Bob not only to have a good sense of humour, but able to dodge flying arrows.

But I’m not crazy about the mixed construction. I think a better option is to turn the adjectival phrase able to into a verbal phrase, to be able to, so that you have two verb phrases:

I found Bob not only to have a good sense of humour, but to be able to dodge flying arrows.

  • haha. thanks for your answer. still a teensy confused, i mean, my [] could have been put in different places. So if I said: [Amy] found [Bob] to not only [have (verb) a good sense of humour] but able to [do (verb) other impressive things] due to Bob's [personality (noun)] and [wealth(noun)] Then it would make sense according to your parallelism? Also, you're a native English speaker right? Did you understand what I was trying to say? – Bob Jan 13 '14 at 7:55
  • I think I understand. Yes, I'm a native speaker, multiply published. I missed out the adjunct due to blah from my answer because it's irrelevant to the grammaticality and stylistics of the sentence. Leave it in, miss it out, your choice. – Daniel Harbour Jan 14 '14 at 2:42

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