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I often see this construction "it's not that somebody + verb" and just wish to clarify whether I'm understanding it correctly.

  1. It's not that he doesn't like coffee that he doesn't want it now, he loves coffee but the doctors said he shouldn't drink it very often.
  2. It's not that Alice hates cat's it's just that she's allergic to them. (should there be a comma before "it's")

So the construction basically inverts the meaning, "not that he doesn't"="he does" and "not that Alice hates" = "she doesn't hate". Is it some kind of a double negative inversion?

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This is a double negative but it places emphasis on contradicting what someone might initially conclude. Here are some usage examples.

First Example

Adam drinks water while out for coffee with some coworkers...

Alice - "Does Adam not like coffee?"

Arnold - "It's not because he doesn't like coffee that he doesn't want it now. He loves coffee, but the doctors said he shouldn't drink it very often."

Second Example

Alice keeps some distance from a friend's cat. Afterwards, this friend is talking to another of Alice's friends who knows about the allergy.

Observer friend - "Does Alice not like cats?"

Allergy-knowing friend - "It's not that Alice hates cats; it's just that she's allergic to them."

In the second example, you might also hear the more brief phrases:

It's not that Alice hates cats; she's just allergic to them.

It's not that Alice hates cats; she's just allergic.

Alice doesn't hate cats; she's just allergic.

This structure can also be used in the first person to correct someone's misconceptions about you. For example, "It's not that I don't like X, I just ..." is very commonly used to deny dislike for something.

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  • Hmm.. So I did understand it right. what about the comma in the second example? Aug 29, 2017 at 7:09
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    I think a semicolon works better since the two pieces of the sentence stand on their own. They both would sound about the same spoken. I originally copied and pasted the examples but I fixed them in an edit.
    – user886
    Aug 29, 2017 at 7:15

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