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Would you possibly tell me which one you apply?

I do not want a pen, but a bag.

I want not a pen, but a bag.

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    "I want a bag, not a pen."
    – user230
    Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 15:02
  • nima_persian, if, as @snailplane said, 'I want a bag, not a pen' is correct, the 'I want a pen, not a bag' is correct, too.
    – user2793
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 0:56
  • Both are grammatical, but sound archaic. Snailplane's suggestion is better. Or say "I do not want a pen, I want a bag."
    – relaxing
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 1:12
  • Although both are grammatically correct, I want a bag, not a pen sounds much better than the alternatives.
    – Stark07
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 5:53

1 Answer 1

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This is going to depend on your region. Generally, in America, it would sound better (whether it is proper or not), to say "I do not want a pen, but a bag." In an older-English type area, your second example, "I want not a pen, but a bag," would probably be heard more frequently.

Both are correct, and a listener will understand your meaning when you use either, so it is up to you.

Another way to look at this is the formality of your situation. If you are in an informal context (friends, family, etc.), the first example will sound better and less "stiff." In a formal context like work, an interview, a business meeting, etc, the second example would be more acceptable.

The more you speak a language, the more you will get a feel for proper slang and usage, and it will become second nature when deciding which format to use.

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