The following example is from the book Oxford Guide to English Grammar describing Not usage

Beggars are a not unusual sight on the streets of London.

Should that be

Beggars are not an unusual sight on the streets of London.

"a not unusual" in the first sentence seems not idiomatic or right to me.

Can anybody explain this to me? How a native speaker would say this?

Also I want to know the two negative words "not unusual" is all right to use?


  • 1
    I'm not a native speaker, but that double negative sounds more emphatic than a normal positive sentence. A not unusual sight sounds natural to me.
    – dan
    Dec 25, 2017 at 4:16
  • It sounds pretentious to me, but that is just my taste. Dec 25, 2017 at 5:25

1 Answer 1


There is nothing grammatically wrong with "a not unusual sight." Some find it a stylistically verbose and pretentious way to say "a usual sight."

  • Thanks for your answer. Can I use "not an unusual" there, because that is more convenient than the other to me.
    – Raj 33
    Dec 25, 2017 at 4:37
  • 1
    Yes, you can use it: it is grammatical. Some consider it poor style. And clearly "not an unusual" is more round-about and harder to comprehend quickly than " a usual," but that is style, not grammar. Dec 25, 2017 at 5:23

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