Is this sentence:

Not only do trees provide shade and beauty, but they also reduce carbon dioxide.

as same as this one?

Trees not only provide shade and beauty, but also reduce carbon dioxide.

What is the effect that the word do produces? Does it emphasize the movement of providing?

Is it an inverted sentence?

  • 1
    I'd say that it emphasizes the 'not only' by providing a structure in which those two words can come first. 'Not only' is one of those entities that forces inversion of subject and verb [as in "Neither should I", "So did we"], so its use forces us to use the auxiliary 'do' before the subject 'trees'. – David Garner Sep 3 '15 at 15:19
  • There's a similarity with the question form of verbs. "Not only are trees providers of shade" is well-formed, and so is "not only have trees provided shade". I am not sure why questions and "not only" share this form. – aecolley Sep 3 '15 at 20:20

The two sentences convey the same meaning.

Do doesn't provide any emphasis. It's just part of the template for that construction.

I don't think either of these is an inversion, because the standard subject-verb order hasn't been monkeyed with. (But I'm not as sure of this part of my answer as with the other parts.)


One could argue the use of 'do', because of it being a verb, places emphasis on the utility of trees.


The sentences mean the same thing but I feel the effect on a reader is slightly different. The first sentence starts with "Not only do" which signifies to the reader that the subject that follows has other duties besides the main one. The second sentence starts off with "Trees" which emphasizes that we are talking about trees.

This may seem like a trivial difference but I think if research were done on these kinds of sentences the results would show that there is some kind of measurable reaction in people. Perhaps the first sentence better conveys the meaning because it activates a logic center in the brain first which helps a reader understand the meaning better.

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