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Thousands of visitors from around the world travel to Siena during the summer; not only to witness the exciting race but also to attend the after-parties were thrown by the locals.

  • A. NO CHANGE
  • B. summer. Not
  • C. summer not
  • D. summer, not

I picked C, because there was no comma before "but also" part. But the book chose D, saying that:

The second half of the sentence is an incomplete idea and must be linked to the complete thought, eliminating choices (A), (B), and (C).

I don't think the explanation from the answer is right for this one. Why is the answer (D), instead of (C)?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The comma is there because the not only...but also portion is a subordinate clause. It only adds clarification and can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. That is what the book means by "incomplete idea". It cannot stand on its own, which eliminates (A) and (B), and it is subordinate to the main clause, which eliminates (C).

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The second half of the sentence is a correlative coordination of two adjuncts of purpose, each taking the form of a to-infinitival clause.

not only
   to [ witness the exciting race ]
but also
   to [ attend the after-parties were thrown by the locals ]

Here, the correlative coordinators [ not only ... but also ... ] join together two constituents of the same type. (I've crossed out were, which makes the sentence ungrammatical; I assume that it was a typo.)

Must an adjunct of purpose, by itself, be separated by a comma? No:

Thousands of visitors from around the world travel to Sienna during the summer to witness the exciting race.

Although this to-infinitival clause is subordinate (to is the subordinator for non-finite clauses), there's no need for a comma. It can be pronounced as an integrated clause, one which is an essential part of a sentence and is not set off by a major intonational boundary. In fact, it should be pronounced this way; inserting a comma to indicate otherwise makes the sentence quite awkward.

So then, if we replace the bolded phrase with a correlative coordination of to-infinitival clauses, why would we need to insert a comma? Because the coordination requires a more complex intonational structure. In other words, it has to do with pronunciation:

  We need to set off the coordination with a major intonational boundary.
  This prevents us from pronouncing it like it's integrated.
  Instead, we must pronounce it like it's supplementary.

We typically indicate this intonational break from the main clause in writing using a comma:

Thousands of visitors from around the world travel to Sienna during the summer,
  not only
     to [ witness the exciting race ]
  but also
     to [ attend the after-parties thrown by the locals ] .

Is this comma required? Strictly speaking, I would say no. However, I personally believe that it's better style to include it. On a test, I would pick Answer D for this reason.

Because there's another major intonational boundary between the two halves of the coordination, there's another optional comma before but:

Thousands of visitors from around the world travel to Sienna during the summer not only to witness the exciting race, but also to attend the after-parties thrown by the locals.

You could include one comma, the other, or both. (Although I'm not prepared to say that leaving both commas out is wrong, I consider it poor style to do so.)

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