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The most famous example is, presumably, that of negation, for example, “He is a good singer - NOT!” A more sophisticated example, widely known, is that of changing the role of “trying” from a participle to an adjective - the two having antonymous meanings - by means of the delayed prepositive “very” which can modify an adjective, but which does not ever - in spite of what a legion of ESL students may think (“I very like ice-cream.”) - directly modify a verb. This can take the form of a joke, in which a frustrated teacher tells the child’s parent, “Your child is trying - very!” Note that in these two examples, the delayed prepositive is followed by an exclamation point, and this may be an essential element for the intended effect of the procrastination of the prepositive. So, is there a term for this rhetorical technique? Also, any additional examples of this would be appreciated.

  • I don’t know if there is a term for it or not, but it’s kind of like creating a timing-based garden-path sentence. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 24 '15 at 22:52
  • @JanusBahsJacquet have you ever hear someone put very at the end of a sentence? I haven't. – michael_timofeev Sep 25 '15 at 0:02
  • @chasly: You're right. I've corrected it. – Mike Jones Sep 25 '15 at 0:14
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I think you are looking at two different phenomena.

A. Simply putting 'not' at the end of a statement isn't all that unusual, it's an alternative grammatical form.,e.g.

No, it is not.

I think not.

Waste not, want not.

She loves me, she loves me not.

The trick is simply the pause before adding the negation.


B. In the case of 'trying—very!" the addition of 'very' forces us to re-parse the sentence. It turns what we thought to be a present participle into an adjective.

Another example

"Janet is pretty!"

"Yes, she is pretty — pretty ugly!"

That changes the adjective 'pretty' into an adverb of degree.

  • 3
    Putting a negation at the end of a sentence is not an alternative grammatical form. It only happens to be identical with the more archaic construction of negating a verb with verb + not, rather than DO + not + verb, when there is no object or a pronominal object. So “she loves me not” and “I care not” are grammatical, but “I like what you’ve done with the room not” is not and never was. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 24 '15 at 22:52

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