I would like to ask which option sounds more natural/common/idiomatic to you.

  • 1a. The hat looks red but the bag does not.

  • 1b. The hat looks red but the bag not.

Similarly, could you please also compare 2a and 2b.

  • 2a. The hat is above the box but the bag is not.

  • 2b. The hat is above the box but the bag not.

1 Answer 1


Your sentences 1b and 2b are more idiomatic if you use but not, which is

a coordinator with a negative, used to exclude something after stating a generalization (grammar-quizzes)

So your sentences would be

  • (1b) The hat looks red but not the bag.
  • (2b) The hat is above the box but not the bag.

Cambridge labels the phrase but not as common:

The phrase but not is common:

  • The room has been painted but not in the colour that I asked for.
  • I’d love to go for a pizza with you but not tonight.

As for your 1a and 2a versions they are just as correct but sound more formal since they don't use the contraction doesn't. 1b and 2b can be used in more informal contexts.

  • Thank you! That's super helpful. May I please ask a follow-up too? Would you say the 'not' form is more natural than the 'doesn't/isn't' form? Feb 15, 2023 at 18:12
  • 1
    As a principle, more economic (concise) ways of expressing a certain meaning will be more natural as well. But in this particular case, I would think both ways (but not X and but X doesn't/isn't) are natural. There may be a slightly stronger emphasis on the negation in the form with but X doesn't/isn't.
    – fev
    Feb 15, 2023 at 18:20
  • 1
    That's brilliant. Thank you very much Feb 15, 2023 at 18:28
  • 1
    @PabloBernabeu To emphasize what fev is saying, your versions 1b and 2b (dropping the verb) are not wrong exactly but they give a very old-fashioned feel. Even in formal instances, they are not the preferred version.
    – Mitch
    Feb 15, 2023 at 19:35
  • 1
    Note that in the case of "The hat is above the box but not the bag," the sentence could be understood either as saying that the hat is above the box but the bag isn't or as saying that the hat is above the box but isn't above the bag. To avoid the ambiguity in that case, you could say "The hat, but not the bag, is above the box" (which sounds somewhat artificial/literary) or you could restore the clarifying verb to its proper place, as in "The hat is above the box, but the bag isn't" (which sounds quite natural).
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 15, 2023 at 23:52

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