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Please look at this sentence from "The God of small things" written by Arundhati Roy.

The news didn't perturb him as much as excite his curiosity.

Shouldn't it be excited his curiosity? I'm confused by the usage of excite in the sentence.

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"Excite" is used here in keeping with "perturb" in a parallel structure. One way of understanding it is to see it as following an implied auxiliary did.

The news didn't perturb him as much as it did excite his curiosity.

Since the verb "excite" is part of the parallel structure under an auxiliary verb, it is not conjugated.

Edit: as FumbleFingers points out, it is not limited to this one possibility. The sentence could also be understood as:

The news didn't perturb him as much as (it) excited his curiosity.

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  • But it really does depend on exactly how we choose to parse the utterance. You're assuming a "deleted" did before excite, but I think it's perfectly possible (though maybe less likely) to assume deleted it (= the news) before excited instead. Jun 20, 2019 at 15:39

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