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I understand that a coordinating conjunction must combine two words, phrases or clauses of equal weightage, thus, a coordinating conjunction must never combine a clause and a phrase. It should be either a word-word relationship or a phrase-phrase one or a clause-clause one. What role is the coordinating conjunction 'but' playing in this sentence then -

I would like to watch a movie but not alone.

I believe that but in this sentence is combining a clause (I would like to watch a movie) with a phrase (not alone). Can someone clarify if I am making a mistake in identifying the role of but here?

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Understood words are in parentheses:

One way to explain:

I would like to watch a movie (generally), but not alone.

The conjunction joins two adverbs: "generally" and "not alone". The "generally" is implied because as you mentioned, we need word groups of equal properties, in this case adverbs. Also, the implied adverb is "generally" (or another similar in meaning) because the "but" conjunction is a qualifier here. We start in the general sense of watching a movie (i.e., what's implied by not using an explicit adverb), then we use "but" to start narrowing down conditions.

Another way, but somewhat contrived to make the grammar work. Meaning remains unchanged though (original given answer):

I would like to watch a movie, but (I would) not (like to watch it) alone.

When written like this, "but" joins two clauses.

  • There were three comments on this answer. I am not sure what happened to them since they seem to have disappeared without a reason. – user18593 Jun 16 '18 at 10:51

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