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I have a question with respect to English interpretation based on strict grammar rules not on context.

How would you interpret the following sentence: [The contract would not cancel and survive]?

Would you interpret it as

A. [The contract would not cancel and not survive]

B. [The contract would not cancel but survive]

What about the following sentence: [The contract would not cancel and be alive]?

Would you interpret it as

A. [The contract would not cancel and would not be alive]

B. [The contract would not cancel but alive].

Basically, I am trying to understand whether one negation word would affect the first clause and the second clause, or just the first clause.

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  • The person who answers might explain how coordinating conjunctions work, but you may already know the basics, so that person would be wasting his or her time. Therefore, please indicate what you already know about the issue. Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 14:10
  • "based on strict grammar rules not on context." You're doing it wrong. You won't learn much if you ignore grammar.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 5:13
  • I would interpret all these sentences as nonsense without context. Being grammatically correct does not guarantee that a sentence makes sense.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 23:53
  • cancel is not normally an intransitive verb so that sentence is not idiomatic or grammatical. Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 0:16

2 Answers 2

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The question as asked has no answer. It says "how would you interpret..." but "not (based) on context". But the only way to interpret a coordination "not X and Y" is from the context.

Here the context is very unclear. I know what it means for a contract to "be cancelled", and I suppose you could say "the contract cancels {something}" (meaning it has a clause that agrees that something be cancelled) I don't know what "The contract cancels" is supposed to mean.

As contracts aren't living things, the use of language like "survive" and "be alive" is odd.

Purely from grammar alone both interpretations are valid. This is not my interpretation of the sentence.

My interpretation is that the contract will not be cancelled and so it will survive. I would also judge the speaker for not using a better choice of words. "The contract won't be cancelled; it will survive!"

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Context is everything.

I don't think you can have a contract that both cancels and survives. You can have a clause that survives cancellation, such as protecting confidential information, but that's not what this is. So the only logical interpretation is:

the contract would not cancel and would survive

The same goes for the second example. You can't have a contract that cancels and then is still alive (active). Interpretation is:

... the contract would not cancel and would be alive

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