1, He not only studied hard, but also joined many extracurricular activities.

2, Not only did he study hard, but he also joined many extracurricular activities.

I was taught that sentence 2 has a more advanced grammar structure (which is called inversion) and therefore will generally help receive a higher score in language exams.

Is that so?

In order to formulate this inversion structure, sentence 2 has to contain an additional “he”, which is a little bit cumbersome. The increase of complexity seems to be offset by the decrease of brevity.

For shorter sentences, such as “Not only can she sing, but she can also dance”, I feel this well-intentioned upgrade backfires. “She can not only sing, but also dance” should be more concise.

  • 1
    Your sentence (1) is unnatural. A native speaker would say He not only studied hard, but also joined many extracurricular activities. Putting the not only at the beginning of the sentence merely adds emphasis. Dec 29, 2021 at 8:56
  • @KateBunting thanks for pointing out. I edited it.
    – joy2020
    Dec 29, 2021 at 12:33
  • 3
    You cannot generalize on the way exams are marked, it depends on the type of exam, the exam level, what country the exam is taken, and lots of other elements... so this part of the question is entirely irrelevant here.
    – None
    Dec 29, 2021 at 12:42
  • what I really wanted to ask is less about exams, but more about which sentence might prove better English skills.
    – joy2020
    Dec 30, 2021 at 6:59

1 Answer 1


Your sentence 2 does use an inverted structure, which is slightly mote complex. I would not call it "more advanced" nor think it a particular improvement. There is no significant difference in meaning, perhaps a slight change of emphasis, but mostly the difference is one of style. As edited, both are quite natural and a fluent person might write either.

Because the two clauses are no longer strictly parallel after the inversion of the first clause, omission of "he" in the 2nd is less clear and is disfavored, although it could be done. Note that sentence 1 could be written with a 2nd "he" in the same position as in sentenc 2.

I must agree with this comment by
user "None" that whether and how this change would affect an exam mark is not, in general, predictable.

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