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Do these sentences all mean the same thing?

  1. You are not great because you know many things.
  2. You are great not because you know many things.
  3. You are great for another reason.

As another example, do these all mean the same thing, too?

  1. I don't like you because you are beautiful.
  2. I like you not because you are beautiful.
  3. I like you for another reason.
  • No. And no the second time. – Hot Licks Aug 14 '15 at 16:17
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You are not great because you know many things.

This could either mean
"you ARE great, but your greatness isn't derived from you knowing many things"
or "you ARE NOT great, and that is because you know many things".

The way it is said (and the context) generally decides which of the two it is.

You are great not because you know many things.

This means
"you ARE great, but your greatness isn't derived from you knowing many things"

This phrasing would generally be followed up by the actual reason.

"You are great, not because you know many things, but because you don't think you're smarter than others."

You are great for another reason.

This is a more vague version of the second example. Correct, but much more vague and would probably warrant some elaboration from the speaker's side.


The same applies to your second example.

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Well, there is an issue with each of your modified sentences that makes your question hard to answer directly: your modified sentences are not complete sentences.

If you say/write, "You are great not because you know many things," the end of the sentence is missing. The wording indicates that you are going to explain why the person is great. For example: "You are great not because you know many things, but because you use that knowledge to help others." Same with, "I like you not because you are beautiful, but because you are so kind-hearted."

EDIT: Your question changed after I posted my answer! No, the three don't mean the same thing in the sense that you can't just switch one for another. Your 3rd sentence in each case could be tagged onto the first sentence--so, they go together, but they don't mean the same thing. In the second set of sentences, the first sentence could be understood as you don't actually like the other person and the reason you don't like them is because they are beautiful.

  • 1
    The question didn’t change. It just needed to be formatted better. Also, the question itself had errors of grammar that required correcting so that people would focus on what the OP wanted to know, not his initial grammatical mistakes in asking the question. – tchrist Sep 18 '14 at 0:29
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They do not all mean the same thing. The first sentence says to the listener that they are not great - and the reason they are not is that they know many things.

The second means that they are great, but not because if that. However, it is not optimally phrased. The shortest way to make it workable is to add a comma and a but: "You are great, but not because you know many things."

Third sentence is similar in sentiment, but is far less specific. I suspect you are really asking about the other two and that one is mainly there for context.

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Your example 1 is ambiguous in writing, but in speech the two possible interpretations have different intonations.

1a. You are not great because you know many things[pitch falls at end].
1b. You are not great because you know many things[pitch fails to fall].

The "not" in 1a goes with the sentence "You are great". The "not" in 1b goes with "because you know many things", and it is the first part of a contrastive construction in which "because you know many things" is compared with some other reason. This is why in 1b, the pitch fails to fall at the very end -- it is because the end of the sentence is only the first part of the contrastive construction, the rest of which is left unsaid.

So, in 1a, "you are great" is negated, but it is not negated in 1b, which implies that you are great. 1b means the same as your example 2.

In 1a, the "because" clause could be moved to the beginning, giving the unambiguous

1c Because you know many things, you are not great.

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As a general rule, these sentences do not mean the same thing, although they can mean the same thing depending on the context in which they are used.

First Sentence:

  • Sentence: You are not great because you know many things.
  • Usual meaning: Knowing many things does not make you great.
  • Meaning if someone is already great: You are great for another reason than knowing many things.

Second sentence:

  • Sentence: I don't like you because you are beautiful.
  • Usual meaning: I dislike you because you are beautiful.
  • Meaning if you do like someone: I like you for another reason than because you are beautiful.

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