I wrote this sentence as the email subject this morning - "Will login not before 12 pm".

This has got me thinking if what I wrote is correct or the sentence should have been - "Will not login before 12 pm".

Are both the sentences technically correct?


I think that there is a difference in logical implication between the two wordings, which I would put as follows:

Will login not before 12 pm

can be taken as assurance that the person sending the note will assuredly log in though not before 12 pm at the earliest.

Will not login before 12 pm

can be taken to mean that the person sending the note will assuredly not log in before 12 pm and may not log in at all.

As I said, though, this is merely a difference in what the two phrases may be taken logically to imply. It is highly likely that recipients of either message will look beyond the logical implications of the wording and interpret it in the same way that they would the other message: as an attempt to notify recipients that the sender will be logging in, but not before 12 pm.

On a separate (and fairly minor) point, I note that your original sentence spells login as a single closed-up word. This is one common way to style the term as a noun or adjective (the other is log-in); but the most common way to handle it as a verb is to render it as two words: log in.

  • Exactly. I agree. To the point of having said what you say a couple of days earlier. Thanks for being more lucid :)
    – anemone
    Feb 23 '15 at 22:55

I do not know what you refer to by "technically correct", nevertheless let me offer some points.

Neither of the sentences is strictly grammatical as both appear to be missing a subject. This may be just fine in an email subject where one may suspend grammar for the sake of terseness.

One might also concede that for the same reasons, 'but' has been omitted from the first sentence, that (fully fledged) would read "I will log in but not before 12pm." With or without 'but', that's what the first sentence appears to be saying. Among other things, you commit to logging in eventually.

In the second sentence however, you delimit the period during which you are not going to log in, but without committing to logging in at all. Even though the addressee may assume you will log in some time, it is not strictly speaking what you have said.

So (although I think we're nitpicking here a bit) the main technical problem with the two sentences is that they have different meanings. However, I think both are good enough to get the message through.

  • +! I didn't mean to steal your thunder with my two-days-later answer. Our conclusions about the implications of the two wordings are very similar indeed—in fact, virtually identical. I usually read existing answers quite carefully before submitting an answer of my own, but in this case what I mainly noticed about your answer was the comment that the absence of an explicit subject rendered the sentences "not strictly grammatical." My apologies for not reading the whole answer more closely.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 23 '15 at 23:49
  • @SvenYargs -- Of course they are similar. We're right! (I upvoted yours, and again, thanks.)
    – anemone
    Feb 24 '15 at 9:49

Will log in not earlier than (at) 12 pm.

Will not log in before 12 pm.

Will log in at 12 pm the earliest.

I think your first version is grammatically correct either, but it sounds odd.

  • 1
    "I think your first version is grammatically correct either" that's grammatically correct?
    – Kris
    Feb 19 '15 at 6:39
  • @Kris, I will be happy to learn what is wrong with that sentence. I guess your first version?
    – Arsen Y.M.
    Feb 19 '15 at 18:03
  • Check again. You probably meant "I don't think your first version ...." or perhaps something else.
    – Kris
    Feb 20 '15 at 6:12
  • I was trying to say that I will log in not before 12 pm was correct, but now, after reading it a couple more times, I am not sure :)
    – Arsen Y.M.
    Feb 20 '15 at 19:17
  • 1
    Then you probably meant "I think your first version is grammatically correct, too."
    – Kris
    Feb 21 '15 at 6:07

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