She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to.

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JuneKid

Member
Chinese
Greetings to you all!

Here's my question, is this sentence acceptable at all? - "She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to."The first time I saw this sentence I was quite confused because I thought it was completely contradictory. But after a while I realized that it actually indicates the fact that "She attended the meeting not because she wanted to."
I'm just curious if any native speakers would actually present this fact by saying "She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to"? Is it acceptable at all? Because I think it's a bit too confusing.

Thank you.
 
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't think I would write it, but I might well say it, although probably it would contain a bit more context:

    She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to; she attended because her boss forced her to.

    I would put the emphasis on the words "wanted" and "forced," as indicated. And now that I see it in print, I think perhaps I would write it, with the added words to finish up the contrast.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I don't think I would write it, but I might well say it, although probably it would contain a bit more context:

    She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to; she attended because her boss forced her to.

    I would put the emphasis on the words "wanted" and "forced," as indicated. And now that I see it in print, I think perhaps I would write it, with the added words to finish up the contrast.
    Yes, I agree. The only way I can think this structure is possible if it is stressed for contrast, as pob says. When I first read the example I didn't think of that and it didn't seem possible to me.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In case you like analysing the sentence ...

    The difference between the usual way of understanding the sentence and the way provided by pob and tim is to do with the scope of the negation (what is being negated). Normally, the not (in didn't) negates the verb. In pob's and tim's sentences, the not negates the whole bit after it ('attend the meeting because she wanted to'). You could also negate it by saying that it was too weak:

    She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to; she attended it because it was her dear heart's desire to do so!
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    The original sentence is a good example of one that works better in speech but not in print, although you could have made it work by emphasizing "wanted" in print, with bold face or italics; that would be the equivalent of the voice stress one would use when speaking the sentence:

    "She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to."

    Without that typographical trick, the sentence is as confusing as you feared. Typography is part of writing, and perfectly acceptable where needed, as it is here.

    Even with the italics, however, I think the sentence is open to misinterpretation or confusion. Therefore, it would be best to do what pob recommended. The shortest explanation or contrast might be, "She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to, but because she had to."
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Although I didn't find the original confusing, I do agree with Fabulist's suggestion (post #5); just adding those five words takes little space or effort and prevents ambiguity.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Although I didn't find the original confusing
    I'm surprised by this. Given that it was followed by a full-stop (period) how did you interpret the meaning? All the acceptable interpretations I can think of require the sentence to carry on with a contrast, without an end at "wanted to". What might "She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to." possibly mean, then?

    Edit - ah you mean you assumed the "wanted" was stressed despite the lack of italics, I see.

    For me, without a typographical device such as italics I was completely confused at first. Italics and other typograpical devices are sometimes looked down on, but to avoid this, it's not difficult to topicalize the phrase and make it acceptable by means such as "it's not that she attended the meeting because she wanted to, (but rather that...)
     
    Last edited:

    JuneKid

    Member
    Chinese
    Thanks you, all of you for paying attention to my question.
    So I guess I'd better try and add context to make things more easily understood. :)
     

    Meille

    Senior Member
    English
    I don't find the original sentence confusing either.

    She didn't attend the meeting because she wanted to. = She attended the meeting, but not because she wanted to.
     
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