Which of these two sentence form is more accurate and why:

  1. Ramiro is anything but professional.
  2. Ramiro is anything but not professional.

These both sentences conveys the same message about Ramiro being anything except professional. But which sentence should be used. I would really feel grateful if one explains the answer.

Ps. Hi, English is not my native language and this is my first question here so please be kind. Thanks. ✌

  • Hi Rees, welcome to EL&U! I think you might get a better answer for this question on our sister site English Language Learners. You could ask it there directly, or we could try and get it moved for you. If you post it there I'll give it a good answer for you! :-) Just so you know, your two sentences mean opposite things! – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 22 '16 at 12:58
  • I'm sorry if I sound rather stupid but why I can't get this question answered here instead? It's just a small clarification is all I need. Thank you very much. 😊 – innocent rock May 22 '16 at 13:00
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    Okay, thanks and sorry for my ignorance. I'll move this question. Thanks again 😊 – innocent rock May 22 '16 at 13:06
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    "Ramiro is anything but not professional" is not quite idiomatic, but generally would be read as "... anything but unprofessional" and hence "very professional". – Hot Licks May 22 '16 at 13:18
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    Those two sentences mean opposite things.. – tchrist May 25 '16 at 0:12

They are both grammatical, but they mean different things. And there are other differences.

Anything but X is an idiom, and but in this idiom is a negative. So,

  • anything but professional means 'definitely not professional'.

If you add another negative in the X element, the usual double negative confusion results

  • anything but not professional means 'definitely not not professional'

which is hard to decode, if not ungrammatical. The X element can itself be a negative, however,

  • anything but unprofessional means 'definitely not unprofessional'

provided the term can be negated, like unprofessional. However, anything but unprofessional does not mean the same thing as anything but professional.

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    Similar remarks hold for nothing instead of anything, and except instead of but; i.e, Nothing but X, Anything except X, and Anything except X all work the same way as Anything but X. – John Lawler May 22 '16 at 15:48

I think that Ramiro is anything but professional is the correct way. It is not really a question of grammar but rather of an expression of how we say it.

Ramiro is anything but not professional---when I hear that I understand what you want to say, but it is not as clear.

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  • -1 As mentioned in the other answer & in the comments, the 2 versions are NOT the same. Hence your comment that the second version "is not as clear" is plain wrong. – TrevorD May 22 '16 at 17:11

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