I'm doing SAT writing practice questions, and I came across a problem I believe has multiple solutions. The incorrect sentence is as follows (i shortened it):

He was not merely expected to work hard, but to help others.

And the error occurs at not merely. According to the site, the sentence should be corrected like this:

He was expected not merely to work hard, but to help others.

Isn't this sentence also gramatically correct though?

He was not merely expected to work hard, but also to help others.

Thanks everyone.


The positioning of the words 'not merely' (which is a structure not really modifying the verb in the first of my examples below, but restricting / enlarging the area of its application, so I'd call this a 'limiting / delimiting modifier' rather than an adverb - or an adjective in the second example) can be important.


He not merely looked at the $2 000 print, he actually bought a copy.


He looked at not merely the $2 000 print, but also the $52 000 original.

In one, the scope of the verb(s) is addressed, in the other, the set of objects subjected to the action/s of the verb/s. The limiting modifier (word or phrase) needs to be placed immediately before what it refers to.

The positioning of limiting modifiers (just / even / only / almost ...) is notoriously mismanaged, and the term 'misplaced modifier' usually refers to one of these critters that's escaped from its proper place.

(To be fair, with the example you give, I think that the logical misplacing of 'not merely' is colloquially quite acceptable and that this particular sort of misplacing is widely used; it's obvious that there's going to be no second verb counterpart to expected here, so there's no ambiguity. However, SAT requirements and colloquialisms aren't the same thing.)

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