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Hi, Guillermo,

I would say that "I really don't + verb" emphasizes the negative assertion ("It is really the case that I don't V"), and that "I don't really + verb" negates the corresponding positive assertion ("It is not really the case that I V").

I am responding to your question in the abstract because you have asked it in the abstract. If you would like to make your question more concrete, please feel free to do so.

Much will depend on the verb being used, what has been said before in the context, and the emphasis pattern with which the sentence is spoken. The semantic difference I state above is merely a rough guide. Sometimes there is almost no difference at all.
Hi, Guillermo,

I think the analysis I proposed in my first post may be applied to those sentences. The second sentence makes a stronger negative assertion than the first. Incidentally, "I really don't V" is not nearly as common as "I don't really V."

Both sentences would be better if you contracted "do" and "not" (to "don't"). Also, I doubt that you mean "are always not fair." If you do, change it to "are always unfair." Otherwise, if you mean that they are not always fair, say that they are not always fair.

To further refine the sentence, add a comma before "because." Without a comma between the negative clause and the "because"-clause, the sentence may be interpreted to mean that the unfairness of percentages is not the reason that you like to talk about them!

  • I don't really like to talk about percentages, because they are not always fair.
  • Hi, Guillermo,

    This particular comma issue arises in sentences with a negative main clause that is followed by a because-clause. If you use a comma before the because-clause in such sentences, the sentence will have the same meaning as it would have if the because-clause preceded the main clause:
      I don't really like to talk about percentages, because they are not always fair.

      = Because percentages are not always fair, I don't really like to talk about them.

      = It is because percentages are not always fair that I don't really like to talk about them.
    If you do not use a comma before a because-clause following a negative main clause, another interpretation is possible. I used to say that the other interpretation necessarily follows, but now I'm content to say that it's just possible.
      I don't really like to talk about percentages because they are not always fair.

      ~> It is not because percentages are not always fair that I really like to talk about them.
    The fact is that most people are not aware of this comma rule, and we all make assumptions about what people mean based on a number of factors. Still, I will always recommend paying attention to this rule, because it really does matter in certain cases. Here's an example from one of my books. The cleft sentences are my own:
      We did not hire her, because she had a degree in marketing.
      (= It was because she had a degree in marketing that we did not hire her.)

      We did not hire her because she had a degree in marketing.
      (It was not because she had a degree in marketing that we hired her.)
    The syntax behind the rule is doubtless debatable. I'm inclined to say that the comma ensures that the because-clause (an adjunct clause) will be interpreted as adjoining to the main clause as a whole. Without a comma, the because-clause is naturally interpreted as adjoining to the VP, which lies beneath the NegP in the syntactic hierarchy. I'm writing this last paragraph just to entertain myself — pay no attention to it. Smile
    Thor Heyerdahl, Explorer

      Thor Heyerdahl was born in Norway in 1914. Heyerdahl got maried in 1937. He and his wife, Liv, moved to Polynesia that year. While they lived there, Heyerdahl liked to go fishing. When he went fishing, he studied the wind and the Pacific Ocean currents.

      In 1947, people thought that the first Polynesian had come from the west, from Southeast Asia. Because of the winds and the ocean currents, Heyerdahl had a different idea.


    Afer David's explanation I think I understood everything and I venture to re-write the last paragraph like this:

      In 1947, people thought that the first Polynesian had come from the west, from Southeast Asia. Heyerdahl had a different idea, because of the winds and the ocean currents.


    Comments, please.
    Thanks
    Last edited by guillermo
    David, hi, your explanation, through (negation)examples, about the use of a comma is great.

    Now another question; is the use of the comma fine in these sentences?

    quote:
  • Because of the winds and the ocean currents, Heyerdahl had a different idea.


  • Heyerdahl had a different idea, because of the winds and the ocean currents.


  • Based on your example, there shouldn't be any comma when the information is affirmative, right?

    The second sentence obviously was my version Smile, but the first one (the original one) was taken from a book, is that wrong?

    When else can I use the comma? Now, I know when there is no negation, but when else?

    Thanks
    Last edited by guillermo
    quote:
    Based on your example, there shouldn't be any comma when the information is affirmative, right?
    Hi, Guillermo,

    I haven't said that a comma should be used before a because-clause following a negative main clause, or that a comma should not be used before a because-clause following an affirmative main clause.

    What I said is that a comma should be used before a because-clause following a negative main clause IF the because-clause is stating a reason why something is not the case. We didn't hire her, because she had a degree in marketing: the reason we didn't hire her was that she had a degree in marketing.

    If the because-clause following a negative main clause is not preceded by a comma, it will naturally be understood as specifying what is not the reason for a positive fact: We didn't hire her because she had a degree in marketing: the reason we hired her was not that she had a degree in marketing; we hired her for some other reason.

    Incidentally, I received confirmation from a professor of syntax that my structural hypothesis (in my third post above) is correct:
    quote:
    . . . the comma ensures that the because-clause (an adjunct clause) will be interpreted as adjoining to the main clause as a whole. Without a comma, the because-clause is naturally interpreted as adjoining to the VP . . .
    When a because-clause follows a positive main clause (i.e., one without negation), it can, just as in the above cases, be preceded by a comma or not be preceded by a comma. But the difference made by the comma is not as radical here as it is in the above cases.
      (1) Because of the winds and the ocean currents, Heyerdahl had a different idea.

      (2) Heyerdahl had a different idea, because of the winds and the ocean currents.

      (3) Heyerdahl had a different idea because of the winds and the ocean currents.
    All three sentences are fine. The first one, with its fronting of the because-clause, places the emphasis on the reason for Heyerdahl's having a different idea.

    In the third sentence, the focus is likewise on the reason Heyerdahl had a different idea. The sentence answer the question "Why did Heyerdahl have a different idea?" There is the sense that Heyerdahl's having a different idea is discourse-old, or already established in context.

    With the comma (second sentence), the focus of the sentence is first on Heyerdahl's having a different idea, and then on the reason for his having a different idea. The two ideas receive equal weight, the second coming as a kind of afterthought to the first.
    Last edited by David, Moderator
    quote:
    (1) Because of the winds and the ocean currents, Heyerdahl had a different idea.

    (2) Heyerdahl had a different idea, because of the winds and the ocean currents.

    (3) Heyerdahl had a different idea because of the winds and the ocean currents.

    All three sentences are fine. The first one, with its fronting of the because-clause, places the emphasis on the reason for Heyerdahl's having a different idea.

    In the third sentence, the focus is likewise on the reason Heyerdahl had a different idea. The sentence answer the question "Why did Heyerdahl have a different idea?" There is the sense that Heyerdahl's having a different idea is discourse-old, or already established in context.

    With the comma (second sentence), the focus of the sentence is first on Heyerdahl's having a different idea, and then on the reason for his having a different idea. The two ideas receive equal weight, the second coming as a kind of afterthought to the first.


    Hi, David, I have been reading and reading your deep and professional response and I am sure the professor you asked was and is more than happy to answer and provide information to someone as smart and responsive as you are. And I dare ask you for more information, more explanation, you might say why?

    My brain is working hard to understand these:

      (a) Heyerdahl's having a different idea
      (b) his having a different idea
      (c) Heyerdahl had a different idea


    I have read about these uses, in fact Raquel answered me some questions some time ago, but trust me I need more help, your help, please.

    I appreciate your helping Smile

    Thanks
    Last edited by guillermo

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