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a. He was not arrogant and helpful.

b. He was not arrogant, and helpful.

c. He was not arrogant and very helpful.

d. He was not arrogant, and very helpful.

Are the above sentences grammatically correct and correctly punctuated?

The 'not' is supposed to modify 'arrogant' only.

I think (b) and (d) work but the other two don't.

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    A sentence can be grammatical but still not make sense. Yours read oddly because of the combination of adjectives. I would suggest "He was not arrogant, but (very) helpful," or "He was not at all arrogant - in fact, he was very helpful." Apr 18 at 8:06
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    With or without the adverb "very" this question is asking if the addition or omission of a comma is the difference between a sentence being grammatical or not. It's not. Punctuation is important but only in tests and formal writing. Good grammar depends on syntax and semantics.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 18 at 9:19
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a. He was not arrogant and helpful.

b. He was not arrogant, and helpful.

c. He was not arrogant and very helpful.

d. He was not arrogant, and very helpful.

From context, these examples can be interpreted and rephrased as

a. He was not arrogant and [was] helpful.

b. He was not arrogant, [sic] and [was] helpful.

c. He was not arrogant and [was] very helpful.

d. He was not arrogant, [sic] and [was] very helpful.

To avoid ambiguity, was should be inserted into examples (a) and (c), and the examples would be fine.

Examples (b) and (d), with their commas, are not fine; we should not use comma when connecting two phrases with a coordinating conjunction.

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  • Note that, when using the verb insert, the thing that is inserted is the object of the verb, and the thing that it is inserted into is attached with the preposition into. In a passive voice sentence, the object becomes the patient and appears before the verb, rather than after the preposition with. Your last-but-one sentence should therefore read "To avoid ambiguity, was should be inserted into examples a and c.*
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 18 at 8:15

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