Is the following sentence correct: "Not only James, but also Paul don't like her." This sentence uses "not only...but also" in a negative form. It feels weird, but is it grammatically wrong? Thank you.

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I think neither/nor is more suited as a pair of coordinating conjunctions for this type of construction:

"Neither Paul nor James likes her very much." "James doesn't like her, nor does Paul."

Anyone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the purpose of the "not only... but also" construction is to present new information in the second part. "Not only this one thing happened, but also this other different thing too!"

In Latin, this construction (non solum... sed etiam) appears a lot in Cicero who used it to add weight to the points in his arguments.

It kind of breaks down though if you're saying the same thing both times:

"Not only does James not like her, but also Paul doesn't either."

You start having to use the auxiliary form of the verb to not repeat yourself, so it's not a true 1:1 construction where each of the clauses has its own unique verb.

It's okay. But neither/nor is more suited to the parallel idea of the woman not being liked, and doesn't create the expectation of you presenting new information.

  • Indeed. We have an example of not only...but also in a negative sentence, but even there the construction introduces something new — an additional reason for not doing something, in that case.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 8:13
  • @AndrewLeach As suggested in the linked thread it is better, if you really want to use the "Not only .... but also" structure to use a negative verb rather than to negate a positive one. In this case "Not only James, but also Paul, dislikes her". This replaces the negative "doesn't like" with the, admittedly stronger, positive 'dislike'. The emotion is still negative but the grammatical structure is positive.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 9:56

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