I've come across the use of "not necessarily" in many sentences in which the phrase stands before a noun or a noun phrase. As far as I'm concerned, a structure like "Adverb + Noun" is never correct. Please help me out.

Example: This is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Yes, it can. "It ain't necessarily so," as Gershwin wrote. Nov 5, 2020 at 2:02
  • Thanks for citing this example. Please explain more, as I am still clueless about it, to be perfectly honest.
    – KH-vn
    Nov 5, 2020 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


You can regard the adverb phrase "not necessarily" as modifying the copulative verb "is", not the noun phrase. The noun is in the right position, coming after the verb "is".
It's a structure like "isn't" = "is not", where "not" modifies the verb.

  • Could you explain more, please? I'm still confused about this grammar point. Is "not necessarily" an exception?
    – KH-vn
    Nov 5, 2020 at 6:36
  • 1
    @KiênHoàng As Jack says. it's a modifier in the copular verb phrase. The natural analysis of your example has "not necessarily" as an adjunct in clause structure. Note that "not necessarily a bad thing" is not a syntactic unit, not a constituent. Compare also. "I was at that time extremely happy".
    – BillJ
    Nov 5, 2020 at 9:10
  • 1
    @KiênHoàng It's like "is not", except that the adverb "necessarily" qualifies it further. "Is not" is very definite. "Is not necessarily" softens the statement, allowing that it might possibly be a bad thing, but it is not necessary that it is. Nov 5, 2020 at 16:22

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