Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Not Only, But Also

Hmm. I learned a few things while researching today's grammar post. I honestly thought I knew how to properly use the words: not only, but also. Now ... well ... I am smarter than I was yesterday.

First, from Strunk & White:

"Correlative expressions (both, and; not, but; not only, but also; either, or; first, second, third; and the like) should be followed by the same grammatical construction" (THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, p.27).

For example:
Wrong: A day not only for sorrow but also joy.
Right: A day not only for sorrow but also for joy.

Second, from The Grammar Girl:

When not only is followed by but also ... it's considered good form to make sure the parts that follow each set of words are formatted the same way.

  • He is not only a great swimmer, but also a great musician. (Good: the sentence uses two noun clauses, which are underlined.)

  • He is not only a great swimmer, but also plays amazing music. (Bad: the sentence uses a noun clause and a verb clause. It's bad because they don't match.)

You could make the second example better by rewriting it with two verb clauses:

  • He not only swims with ease, but also plays amazing music.


Third, from Grammarly Handbook:

Not only… but also can be a difficult correlative conjunction to work with because of the extra words and their placement in the sentence. Just remember to use two verbs that make chronological sense, two adjectives, or two nouns.

[wrong] He’s not only funny, but also he’s intelligent.

When using a correlative conjunction, both clauses have to be parallel.

[right] He's not only funny but also intelligent.


[wrong] Not only is Matthew going to Egypt for a month, but also Greece for a couple of weeks.

Because the subject is after not only, there also needs to be a subject after but also.

[right] Not only is Matthew going to Egypt for a month, but he’s also going to Greece for a couple of weeks.


Hang in there. Together, we'll not only improve our grammar but also strengthen our resolve.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Write your best "not only, but also" sentence in the comments! :)


  1. Very useful. I had no idea! :D

    Another bookmark worthy post.

  2. This post was not only educational, but also enjoyable to read.
    Great post!

  3. Wow! Why do I always struggle with the rules, yet feel like I can distinguish the right answer by listening to how it sounds?

  4. This is not only a surprise, but also a thing to learn. Seriously, I've never heard this before. Will have to make sure I put it to good use.

  5. I had no idea :) Thanks for the learning experience. (And thank you for stopping by and following my blog - I followed back!)

  6. Thanks for this post! I suck at what I call "formal grammar", so this has proven to be really helpful.


  7. I am not only a mother, but also a grandmother!

  8. I actually never knew that! Thanks for the tip! Always useful! I am not only a teenager but also a needle-phobic! (As noted in today's post).


  9. I not only visited your blog but also learned something. Maybe.

  10. I am not only a writer, but also a grammar student. Lots to learn! (Though I had to laugh at the pics!)

  11. Great grammar posts! This is a great theme for the challenge.

  12. Not only am I a fellow grammar Nazi, but I am also happy to learn from my own mistakes! (OK, maybe that didn't work so well, but you get what I mean.) :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  13. Great post! And the Grammar Nazi picture is hilarious.

  14. Interestingly enough ... I had my daughter, who's in high school AP Language, take a look at this post and the comments, and she mentioned right away: That's just parallelism.


    She's obviously smarter than I am.

    So, just a reminder: the parts of speech after the correlative expressions must match each other.

    Yes, it's tricky.

    Is it worth the effort?

  15. Love this post! I'm always second guessing my grammar. Thanks for the info!