General Writing and Grammar Help/Negative sentence.

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Hi Ted, how are you.
It seems to be that i still have some confusion about negative sentence. " It is absolutely not your fault " and " It is not absolutely your fault ". Is there any differences between two sentences ?. i think it is the same, and the meaning is that he has nothing to do with the problem, he is absolutely innocent. But if i want to say that : he also have to take responsibility for his fault, but he is not the only one causing the fault, he just contributes a small part of the problem. Can you give me a good version ?.
Thanks Ted,
All the best.

Answer
Dear Dat:

It seems to be that i still have some confusion about negative sentence. " It is absolutely not your fault " and " It is not absolutely your fault ". Is there any differences between two sentences ?. i think it is the same, and the meaning is that he has nothing to do with the problem, he is absolutely innocent. But if i want to say that : he also have to take responsibility for his fault, but he is not the only one causing the fault, he just contributes a small part of the problem. Can you give me a good version ?.

*** Dat, your confusion is not your fault.  In the English language there are so many different ways to say the same thing. Expressing ideas in a negative way is especially hard to do.

Here is an explanation of your two sentences --

#1 -- "It is absolutely not your fault."  Because the adverb "absolutely" is placed immediately after the verb "is," what follows can have no exception at all:  NOT YOUR FAULT.
In other words, there is NO WAY that you are involved in or can be blamed for what took place.  It is NOT YOUR FAULT.

#2 -- "It is not absolutely your fault."  There is a very slight change in meaning when the adverb "absolutely" is placed after the negative word "not."  Unlike the first sentence in which you are completely removed from the blame or fault, this sentence suggests that you may be "somewhat" responsible.  However, you are not "completely" responsible.  If you were completely responsible, the phrasing would read "It is absolutely your fault."  Because the negative "not" appears in the phrasing, however, the reader knows that other people MUST SOMEHOW bear some of the responsibility.   Think of the synonym for "absolutely" -- "completely" or "totally."  If I say that you are not COMPLETELY responsible, I am saying that you must accept part of the blame, but other people or another person must accept the REST of the blame.

EXAMPLE:  Dat is not completely responsible for the lack of drinks at the party.  Dat and his friend Jim were supposed to bring the drinks, but BOTH of them forgot.

Since no one else except Jim was at the computer console when the program crashed, he is absolutely or totally responsible for all of the data being lost.

I hope this helps.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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