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In a country not their own, they suffered a great deal.

In this sentence, I can see how it works.

But we never say "in a country their own", do we? We say " in their own country." Here is how the logic is drifted away. With adjectives, we say "good person," just as how we say " their own country." However, we neither say nor write " person not good."

Your wife is a not a good person.

Your wife is a person not good. ?????

Does this "noun + not + modifier" structure work only with nouns? Or is there any instance of this structure with adjectives?

P.S. Sorry for any wrong usage of grammar terms.

  • In a country near their own. In a country like their own. A person not so good. A saying not unknown. – GEdgar Sep 1 '15 at 0:32
  • All of them have one more word in them. near, like, so, and I don't know about the last one. – sooeithdk Sep 1 '15 at 0:35
  • The Attorney General. The light fantastic. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Light_Fantastic – GEdgar Sep 1 '15 at 0:37
  • Why is it saying not unknown, not "not unknown saying?" I think it would answer my question. – sooeithdk Sep 1 '15 at 0:46
  • Also, I did some research on it, and it said that I have to say not so good person. To make it person not so good, I should say "person not so good enough to do something." In other words, there should be additional words. Also, as to your "the light fantastic", I don't think I see very much of them, which creates feeling that it is only seen in literary works. – sooeithdk Sep 1 '15 at 0:53
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Most of the comments seem obtuse or sarcastic. The straight-out answer is that for the most part, this type of construction is now rare, and as you guessed, more likely to be used in a poetic or literary setting, "for dramatic effect".

I could imagine the grave-voiced movie ad narrator:
IN A WORLD NOT THEIR OWN, WHERE BIONIC MONSTERS LURK AROUND EVERY CORNER. . .

But of course you can use it with adjectives; some commenters hinted at that.

  • in a room not far away. . .

  • in a club not known for good jazz

  • at a place not named

  • the road not taken

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