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The car not only is economical but also feels good to drive.

I identified with Rowan Atkinson not only as an actor but also as a person.

Yes, both sentences, as they stand, are perfectly acceptable English, but I wonder if one can correctly rewrite them without the word also. If not, why not?

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  • Is removing "BUT" acceptable?
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 18:48
  • @mistu, no, it is not.
    – user114
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 18:50
  • What made you think "Not only....But" can be plausible?
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 18:51
  • @mistu, I'm unsure, perhaps I have heard this from someone.
    – user114
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 19:02
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    @Carlo_R.: I think it's a perfectly good question for ELL (but I'd have probably called GR on ELU). The fact that Mistu4u wonders whether "but" could be omitted, and even StoneyB has misgivings about omitting "also", is surely evidence that there's a degree of uncertainty about this particular "stock" construction. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 23:17

1 Answer 1

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Strictly, the idiom requires parallelism. Not is paralleled by but, and only also needs a parallel. It need not be also; it may be too or as well or in addition, anything which will complete the contrast with only:

I identified with Rowan Atkinson not only as an actor but as a person, too.

You may very well hear the also or equivalent dropped in speech. This is not a casual use, but a (venial) mistake which occurs because in speech we often lose track of our syntax.

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    Is it really correct to call not only...but also an "idiom"? Besides which, although it's a common construction, I don't see why you should imply that not only must always be accompanied by something like also or too. Here are thousands of instances of not only as a man, but as a xxxx, where hardly any of them do this. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:13
  • @FumbleFingers The construction sounds lacking to me. I keep waiting for the too to drop ... It's different with just or merely, but that only demands completion. (And it's only 60 uses - but the construction with also is only 50, which I suppose would be supplemented with as well or too constructions. SSS, as my baseball friends say.) Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:31
  • Weird. "About 14,800 results" turns out to be only 48 when I page through to the end. On the other hand, if I include the word also, it starts off by claiming 1,400 results, and that turns out to be only 40 when I try to page through. I think GB is limiting the number of results returned, as well as/rather than just making lousy estimates. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:39
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    @FumbleFingers I never trust those numbers at the top. You'll notice, too, that whatever your search term, a lot of the hits don't document the use; and on every occasion when I've actually searched the indicated book I found no instance. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 22:52
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    I believe it's fair to say there are three certainties in this life - death, taxes, and the truth of the statement that absence of evidence proves that either there is no evidence, or we haven't managed to find it yet. We can still make credible conjectures though - we just have to remember they're always subject to change if and when further information becomes available. And we should actively seek out that additional information - I think Aristotle rather dropped the ball when he didn't even bother to count the legs on an insect. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 23:47

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