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

Discussion in 'English Only' started by navi, May 21, 2009.

  1. 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.
     
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    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"
     
  3. boozer Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    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"...
     
  4. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    No, sorry, boozer, this is grammatically incorrect.
     
  5. 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!
     
  6. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    You're right - this sentence is not correct.
     
  7. mplsray Senior Member

    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.
     

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