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The following is a question from my text book.

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

Our purpose is to help the people in the disaster area, ______ go there just out of curiosity.

(1) and in order not to, (2) and not to, (3) but to, (4) not so as to.

The answer is (2). But, I have a doubt about it.

Take the following question as an example.

He asked us to leave and not to return again.

He asked us two things: one is to leave, and the other is not to return again.

So, the sentence in the question with (2) inserted in the blank will mean that there are two purposes: one is to help the people in the disaster area, and the other is not to go there just out of curiosity, which sounds strange. Am I wrong?

The true answer should be "not to" as in.

This is a dog, not a cat.

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You misparse the coordination—it is not two purposes but one purpose and the denial of a different purpose. Think of it not like this:

 Our purpose is a) to help the people in the disaster area, 
                and
                b) not to go there just out of curiosity

but like this:

 a) Our purpose is to help the people in the disaster area, 
 and
 b) our purpose is not to go there just out of curiosity
  • How can I distinguish these two parsings? Does the comma before "and not to" do the trick? – Aki Aug 5 '17 at 15:13
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    @Aki The comma is helpful, since it implies that the second clause is not 'integrated' into the structure of the first. But you can't count on other people following the same rules of punctuation as I do. It comes down in the end to What makes sense in context? I have difficulty imagining why anyone would declare that their purpose was to avoid going there out of curiosity, which is what the alternative parsing would imply. – StoneyB Aug 5 '17 at 15:21
  • I see. Then, isn't "and" in "and not to" confusing? Isn't the meaning clearer if "and" is omitted as in "This is a dog, not a cat". – Aki Aug 5 '17 at 15:34
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    @Aki: You can leave out "and" if you want; it's correct either way. "This is a dog, and not a cat" is also correct, and I think it puts just a little more emphasis on the fact that it's not a cat. – Nate Eldredge Aug 5 '17 at 16:08
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    @Jakub It is not correct. The construction so as to VERB means "in order to VERB, with the purpose of VERBING". It is a clausal attribute: you may use it to modify a clause (We went there so as to VERB) but not a nominal (Our purpose was *so as to VERB). – StoneyB Aug 5 '17 at 20:39

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