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a. I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't drink it, because it is bad for my health.

b. I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't do it, because it is bad for my health.

c. I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't, because it is bad for my health.

Which of the above sentences are grammatically correct and meaningful?

I have strong doubts about (c). It seems to be saying that I do enjoy drinking soda and I don't enjoy drinking soda at the same time. The 'I don't' seems to refer to 'enjoy drinking soda'. I think that is what grammar will tell us, but I wonder if people don't say sentences like (c).

Many thanks.

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This is the one that sounds perfect to me:

b. I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't do it, because it is bad for my health.

This one sounds fine, too:

c. I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't, because it is bad for my health.

It's perfectly understandable that drinking soda is what you "don't." I understand your technical concern that you might be contradicting yourself, but no one would interpret your sentence as a contradiction given the context. On the other hand, this sounds a little bit awkward:

a. I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't drink it, because it is bad for my health.

It's not wrong, and it's fully comprehensible, and I didn't even notice the awkwardness on my first read. But you've essentially repeated the word "drink," which sounds a bit cumbersome. The only way this formulation works for me is if you stress the words enjoy and drink, which has the effective of drawing attention to the contrast between what you enjoy doing and what you actually do.

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  • Indeed. There's an area of linguistics called pragmatics, which often lets us eliminate apparent ambiguities.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 8 '21 at 22:16
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I agree, c. can be read either way, as you say.
I think b. is the best choice, since it avoids repetition.

Apart from that, to avoid contradiction, it might be as well to say

"I would enjoy drinking soda, but I don't do it because it is bad for my health."
or
"I enjoy drinking soda, but I don't do it often because it is bad for my health."

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They're all good grammar if you remove the incorrect comma before "because".

The first is weak style because of the repeated word "drink".

The second is better, but "do it" is unnecessary.

The third is the best. While it can technically be read to mean you both enjoy and don't enjoy drinking soda, nobody will understand it that way because the intended meaning is obvious for semantic reasons. Even if you left out "because it's bad for my health", it would make perfect sense.

It's like if a child asks their school teacher, "Can I go to the bathroom?" and the teacher answers, "I don't know... can you?" as a joke, pretending to understand their question the wrong way.

Both in your example sentence and mine with the school child, the communication was clear, and the person responding chose to pretend they understood it wrong.

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