The following sentence is taken from the series Shameless.US.S06E09, min. 7:00,

We can't run this bar without her. Not, and raise two kids.

I don't think such an use of not is described in any conventiona dictionary, is it?

  • It probably isn't in any dictionaries or style guides but it is definitely current usage on the street (in the UK at any rate). Many language forms appear on the street and never become part of formal English, fortunately most of them soon disappear. This particular one is a form of irony or sarcasm appearing to start off as a positive statement ("I love dealing with awkward customers" for example) followed by an emphatic "Not!" to reverse the meaning suddenly. It seems to have replaced the use of a positive statement with ironic inflection, possibly to avoid misunderstanding.
    – BoldBen
    Oct 8, 2018 at 0:24
  • 18
    @BoldBen - I don’t read this as emphatic reversal at all. It’s “We can’t run this bar without her. especially not if we want to also raise our two kids.”
    – Jim
    Oct 8, 2018 at 3:20
  • @Jim Apologies, I've just looked at it again and you're right. Comes of posting on Stack exchange when I can't sleep!
    – BoldBen
    Oct 8, 2018 at 6:28
  • 1
    @Jim Just had another look and realised that it was the punctuation (and the capitalisation and emboldenment) that had led me astray. I would've typed this as a single sentence with a comma, colon or semi-colon where the full stop is and without the comma after 'not' giving "We can't run this bar without her: not and raise two kids." The emphatic usage would be "We can't run this bar without her. Not!" implying that she thinks she's indispensible but is, in fact, is of marginal benefit at best.
    – BoldBen
    Oct 8, 2018 at 8:52
  • 2
    I think the simplest way to restate this is "We can't run this bar without her -- not while raising two kids."
    – Adam
    Oct 9, 2018 at 5:03

6 Answers 6


I've just watched that scene in a video. Intonation and parsing is important.

The following is a quick exchange between two characters. Note there is zero pause between the sentences of the last line, and there is no pause after the not. So it is most natural not to insert a comma after the not of the sentence.

"He's with Immigration?"

"I had no idea. I didn't see his badge."

Shit, we can't run this bar without her. Not and raise two kids.

Link to a script

Not and raise two kids

has no pause in it, and it is an ellipsis of

[We can] Not [run this bar without her] and raise two kids.

The exchange is viewable (when the link works, and whether it does is not up to me) on this video of the episode at 5:49 of the episode itself (watching it from 5:15 or 5:30 gives even more context.)

  • Could you take a look? english.stackexchange.com/questions/467425/…
    – GJC
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:12
  • I know I am about two years late, but I have a quick question: would it be better to use a semicolon after "her"? "Shit, we can't run this bar without her; not and raise two kids." I don't even think elliptical construction can be used with periods.
    – user392938
    Aug 1, 2020 at 19:48

I would say it is an example of

Used as a short substitute for a negative clause.

‘maybe I'll regret it, but I hope not’

‘‘Don't you keep in touch?’ ‘I'm afraid not’’

‘they wouldn't know if I was telling the truth or not’

(from Oxford Dictionaries). They don't give an example with this structure, but I think the definition still applies.

Some examples which are more like yours (made up by me, not from a source):

I can't carry it. Not without help.

I'm not going to face him! Not for all the tea in China!

Q: Are you coming out tonight? A: Not unless I get all my work done.

  • 8
    The last example ("coming out tonight") is confusing because it switches who is speaking. Could you either call that out or use a different example?
    – ErikE
    Oct 8, 2018 at 2:33
  • I don't like the "Not unless I get all my work done" either, but +1 anyway
    – Grump
    Oct 8, 2018 at 15:40
  • I notice you haven't included OP's misplaced comma after Not in your own examples. But isn't OP's example best described as a "partial reiteration" - (abstracting not from can't = can not and discarding ...run this bar without her as "predictable repeated text")? Oct 9, 2018 at 13:22
  • @ErikE: edited to clarify.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 9, 2018 at 21:14
  • @FumbleFingers: I suppose that is an analysis which could apply to all my examples.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 9, 2018 at 21:15

This looks like an example of ellipsis. The Wikipedia article on ellipsis (linguistics) notes the following (pulled from a couple of places in the article):

In linguistics, ellipsis (from the Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, "omission") or an elliptical construction is the omission from a clause of one or more words that are nevertheless understood in the context of the remaining elements.

Gapping occurs in coordinate structures. Redundant material that is present in the immediately preceding clause can be "gapped". This gapped material usually contains a finite verb. Canonical cases have a true "gap" insofar as a remnant appears to the left and to the right of the elided material.

  • John can play the guitar, and Mary can play the violin.

Your example can be understood in the same way:

  • We can't run this bar without her. Not run this bar , and raise two kids.
  • 2
    The comma then should drop out, shouldn't it?
    – GJC
    Oct 8, 2018 at 0:02
  • 2
    there's no prosodic pause corresponding with the comma when the actor pronounces it
    – GJC
    Oct 8, 2018 at 0:24
  • 1
    @GJC That's interesting. In the written version, the comma still highlights the effect better, I think. (Consider the comma before "I think" in the previous sentence, without a pause between "better" and "I think".)
    – Lawrence
    Oct 8, 2018 at 0:25
  • 1
    That comma is definitely out of place, I'm afraid.
    – Grizzled
    Oct 8, 2018 at 5:08
  • 1
    @MrReality en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosody_(linguistics)#Pause
    – GJC
    Feb 27, 2020 at 16:51

We can't do X. Not and do Y.

eg: We can't drive to the beach today. Not and avoid sunburns.

We can't fly to the moon. Not and fly to Venus on one tank of fuel.

Is a fairly common sentence structure in spoken English. When written it is awkward. It means you can't do X because Y is an impediment.


I think that the second part explains the first:

We can't run this bar without her. [Of course we can. I meant we can] Not [do both run this bar without her] and raise two kids.

(Other answers have explained how the first part is inserted into the second part. But I think it's important to explain what the outcome is, the why. That, as said, the second explains the first.)


"We can't run this bar without her. Not, and raise two kids".

I don't think such a usage of "not" is described in any conventional dictionary, is it?

From Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary - Not:

5 — used to give a negative answer to a question

  • "Do you mind?” “Not at all.”

An example using your own words (slightly differently):

I don't think such a usage of "not" is described in any conventional dictionary. Not?, it is.

The definition is less clear in the Cambridge Dictionary - Not.

Back to Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary, but for the word "no":

1a — used to give a negative answer or reply to a question, request, or offer

  • “Are you going?” “No, I am not going.”
  • No, you can't have any more candy.
  • “Did you hear something?” “No.”
  • “Do you need a ride?” “No, thank you. My wife is picking me up.”
  • He wanted to stay longer but I had to say no.
  • I told him that I couldn't come to the party, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. [=he insisted that I come to the party].


6 — used to express agreement with a negative statement

  • “She shouldn't work so hard.” “No, she really shouldn't.”

Another way to understand the usage is that your example is two sentences spoken by one person, for example:

Joe: "We can't run this bar without her. Not, and raise two kids".

Joe agrees with himself.

What if it were a conversation between two people:

Joe: "We can't run this bar without her."

Tom: "Not, and raise two kids".

Tom agrees with Joe.


Joe: "We can run this bar without her."

Tom: "Not, and raise two kids".

Tom disagrees with Joe.

The word "and" attaches the word "not" to the remainder of the sentence, negating it.

See also: Dictionary.com - negative, along with the Cambridge Dictionary link above.

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