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When it comes to rules, not only should you make them clear but realistic to live by.

I'd like to know if following sentence means totally different from the above sentence.

When it comes to rules to live by, you should make them not only clear but realistic.

  • It violates the "rule" that "not only" should be followed by a corresponding "but also", if the alternative phrase is relatively distant from the first phrase. – Hot Licks Jul 15 '15 at 17:37
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    In the construction not only X but (also) Y, X and Y should be 'parallel' constructions -- they should be of the same syntactic type. Your second example conforms to this (not only ADJECTIVE but ADJECTIVE) but your first does not (not only CLAUSE but ADJECTIVE PHRASE). This would work: you should not only make them clear but also make them realistic to live by. But the second example is shortest and easiest to parse. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 15 '15 at 17:51
  • I see nothing wrong with the construction, and in fact it's quite common (which may be why Hot Licks put rule in pothooks ;-). 'Also' is directly implied by 'not only', yes/no? – Glasseyed Jul 15 '15 at 17:55
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    What is your actual question? The title says it's about whether the sentence is grammatical. But the text asks whether the two sentences have the same meaning. – Barmar Jul 15 '15 at 18:00
  • Laws should be easy to understand and practicable. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 15 '15 at 19:51
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The second is much better than the first. Here are several reasons why:

1) 'realistic to live by' in the first sentence just sounds odd to me. Perhaps if you put some sort of degree adverb there it would be better; for example, 'realistic enough to live by' might improve the sense.

2) by moving the 'live by' next to 'rules', the second sentence becomes much clearer. The first sentence chops the phrase 'rule to live by' in half, making it hard to figure out what sort of rule you are talking about.

3) The first sentence seems to be talking about two different things; 'rules' in general for 'clear', and 'rules to live by' that should be realistic. This lack of coordination can be very puzzling. The second sentence makes clear that you are talking about one subject: 'rules to live by', and that these rules should have two qualities: clarity and realism.

A final nitpick: I would avoid talking about 'making' rules to live by, and say something like 'choosing' rules to live by. 'Rules to live by' are not really rules that can be made or broken. They are truisms that fit or don't fit one's philosophy of life.

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Both the sentences are correct and have the same meaning, with the place of the phrase "to live by" changed as follows:

"realistic to live by"
"rules to live by"

However, that doesn't change the overall meaning of the sentences.

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