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For me it refers not to the store and not to the one clerk you spoke to but collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there.

Is the structure of that sentence, in reference to how 'not' is used, an excellent way to circumvent the use of the modal 'do'?

I ask because, as a non-native speaker and not a linguist, I would have written the above sentence as follows:

​1. For me it doesn't refer to the store and doesn't refer to the one clerk you spoke to but collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there.

or perhaps:

​2. For me it doesn't refer to the store and to the one clerk you spoke to but collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there.

If the original version is grammatical, can I generalize that use of 'not' to other cases, for example "I'm going not to answer, but to waiting an answer"?

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    I would change example 2 from and to or: "For me it doesn't refer to the store or to the one clerk you spoke to but ..." – snailplane Dec 7 '13 at 20:18
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    I'm not sure this answers your question, but you should realize that we don't write "It refers not to X," as a complete sentence. We only use this construction when we follow it up with an alternative: "It refers not to X but to Y." This construction is grammatical but a bit formal or dry or even clumsy. Your examples with "doesn't" are closer to what would be used in casual speech. – The Photon Dec 7 '13 at 20:32
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    @user2793 That's exactly what snailboat means: do in this instance doesn't add any nuance of modal meaning, it's a "dummy" auxiliary which is only there to support the negation. In fact, do is never a 'modal' in the technical sense: unlike the modals it has a full set of inflections, including distinct 3sg and participial forms, and it can be deployed as an infinitive. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 7 '13 at 21:12
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    I once heard that Old English has no auxiliary, e.g. instead of saying "You do not know ...", they say Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. (Also note that this thou is a singular you.) Since this can still be found in bible, I think it's quite natural to say "It refers not to ..." I sometimes heard this in lectures or presentations, and found that the stress on "not" seems to give a stronger impact than "doesn't". – Damkerng T. Dec 8 '13 at 5:10
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    @DamkerngT. It's just as The Photon said. "It refers not to X" is archaic, so it wouldn't be natural in modern English. "It refers not to X but to Y" is natural, though, because not doesn't directly negate the verb; it appears as part of a correlative coordination: "It refers [ not [ to X ] but [ to Y ] ]" – snailplane Dec 9 '13 at 0:24
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For me it refers not to the store and not to the one clerk you spoke to but collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there.

I would write it this way:

1a) For me, it refers not/neither to the store or to the one clerk you spoke to but collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there.

or

1b) For me, it doesn't refer to the store or to the one clerk you spoke to but refers/does collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there.

However, when you write the sentence following independently, it may be a little awkward. It is possible under some circumstances, though.

It refers not to the store.

Let's get back to the sentence 1a. You can rephrase it to:

For me it refers collectively to the not-further-specified people who work there, not to the store or to the one clerk you spoke to.

You use "not" to make a comparison of the phrases "to the store/the clerk" and "to the not-further-specified people". This is the reason why the sentence 1a sounds OK.

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