Is there any change in meaning if you put some words before the preposition or place them between the preposition and object?

  • 1: You can reach the place not only by walking but also by a bus. vs
  • 2: You can reach the place by not only walking but also by a bus.


  • 3: You can write not only with a pencil but also with a pen. vs
  • 4: You can write with not only a pencil but also with a pen.
  • (3) and (4) should use with, not by. Instruments use with, agents use by. Feb 27 '20 at 23:44

not only A but also B

is a fixed structure, where A and B are the same parts of speech. The sentences 2 and 4 smash the structure and are, therefore, incorrect.

In the sentences 1 and 3, by walking (A) and by a bus (B) resp. by a pencil (A) and by a pen (B) are all adverbial expressions (how? by which means?).

In the sentences 2 and 4, walking (A) resp. a pencil (A) are no adverbial expressions and don't match with their respective B, which is still an adverbial expression.

I you removed the second by from the sentences 2 and 4 they would be grammatically correct again, because neither A's nor B' would be adverbial expressions.

  • I'm a bit confused to which sentences in my question you refer, so I marked them 1, 2, 3 and 4.
    – Jan
    Feb 27 '20 at 12:39
  • @Jan I hope it's clearer now.
    – Ben A.
    Feb 27 '20 at 12:42
  • Yes, it is. Still, I'm utterly confused by this, because I see a LOT of this online. I narrowed the online search to: "not by only giving" (in quotes) and I got 14.500 results.
    – Jan
    Feb 27 '20 at 12:45
  • OK; I get it. So, it's just about removing "by" before "B" in 2 and 4.
    – Jan
    Feb 27 '20 at 12:50
  • @Jan The results you get are no not only ... but also structures as you presented them in the question. There, only doesn't belong to not. It belongs to the following word and describes it.
    – Ben A.
    Feb 27 '20 at 12:53

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