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What is the difference between "I enjoy not working late" and "I don't enjoy working late"?

By the way, if they mean the same, is one more common in US than UK?

  • Could you provide a context for this question, to make clear why it is problematic? You surely have a reason for thinking there is a problem. – Tuffy Jul 7 '19 at 7:07
  • As an els learner, I have always used I don't enjoy doing sth. However, when I heard my friend use the first one, I just got a little bit confused and wanted to know the difference. – Joe Simpson Jul 7 '19 at 9:36
  • You will know the context for your friend. For example, she might be a shift worker, whose normal hours go late into the evening. They might not mind that, but on the occasion when they are free in the evening, they might like being able to do ‘evening things’ among ‘evening crowds’. Or it might be that they have changed jobs from shift work (which they did not mind) to daytime working and find they enjoy the change. That is the sort of thing O mean by ‘context’. – Tuffy Jul 7 '19 at 9:46
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I enjoy not working late.

This means that you like it when you leave work on time (or early).

I don't enjoy working late.

This means that you don't like it when you do work late.

The first emphasizes something that causes enjoyment, while the second emphasizes something that causes the lack of enjoyment. In other words, the former is positive, while the latter is negative. It could be looked at as a half glass full or glass half empty interpretation. In short, somebody who says the former could be thought of as an optimist, while somebody who says the latter could be thought of as a pessimist.


Also note that neither explicitly necessitates its opposite.

The following expansions are possible:

I enjoy not working late. (I enjoy working late too, but in a different way.)
I don't enjoy working late. (I actually don't enjoy working at all.)

However, we generally do assume the opposite to apply unless explicitly stated otherwise:

I enjoy not working late. (But working late is a pain.)
I don't enjoy working late. (But leaving early is great.)

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    Yes. But there is also a natural implication for “I don’t like X” that you DISLIKE X, and vice versa. There isn’t a word ‘disenjoy’. And we might simply be indifferent to whether we work late or not. By the way, doesn’t ‘working late’ mean more than staying on five minutes, or even for half an hour or so? – Tuffy Jul 7 '19 at 7:20
  • That's because enjoy does not license negative raising the way verbs like think do. Because "I don't think the asker understands this crucial property" === "I think the asker doesn't understand this crucial property", I don't imagine this answer could fail -- and I imagine it could not fail-- to be improved by explaining this. ;-) – tchrist Jul 7 '19 at 23:32

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