'a not bad' / 'not a bad' fellow

navi

Banned
armenian
Which are correct:

1-He looked like not a bad fellow.
2-He seemed not a bad fellow.

3-He looked like a not bad fellow.
4-He seemed a not bad fellow.


I don't use sentences such as these and go for the usual structure, ie. 'He didn't look like a bad fellow.' but I think these four sentences are not incorrect although 1 and 2 are probably more common. As usual, I am not sure, or else I wouldn't have asked.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I tend to agree with you. Although they sound awkward because we hear them far less often, 3 and 4 are, I think, perfectly grammatical. To my mind, there is a difference in emphasis, though.

    "He seemed not a bad fellow"(2) puts the stress of "not" on "seemed" ie. "He seemed not...". "He seemed a not bad fellow" puts the stress of "not" on "bad" ie. "...not bad".

    "He seemed not a bad fellow" = "He does not seem to be a bad fellow"

    "He seemed a not bad fellow" = "He seemed to be a good fellow"
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    How about moving the "a" to another place? E.g. "He seemed not bad a fellow" instead of "He seemed a not bad fellow"...
     

    navi

    Banned
    armenian
    Thanks Dimcl,
    So just to be sure about thism one cannot say:

    a-That was not bad a deal.

    At first this sentence sounded wrong to me, but then I started having doubts!
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I tend to agree with you. Although they sound awkward because we hear them far less often, 3 and 4 are, I think, perfectly grammatical. To my mind, there is a difference in emphasis, though.

    "He seemed not a bad fellow"(2) puts the stress of "not" on "seemed" ie. "He seemed not...". "He seemed a not bad fellow" puts the stress of "not" on "bad" ie. "...not bad".

    "He seemed not a bad fellow" = "He does not seem to be a bad fellow"

    "He seemed a not bad fellow" = "He seemed to be a good fellow"
    Otto Jespersen said of the litotes "not uncommon" that it is not equal to "common": It is weaker. I expect he would say the same thing about "He seemed a not bad fellow." It's not equal to "He seemed a good fellow" but is somewhat weaker.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top