Grammar 7 min read

How to use not Only... but Also in a Sentence

Main Takeaways:

  • Not only…but also is a correlative conjunction. It conveys two related facts, thoughts, or pieces of information.
  • The expression is typically used to express unexpected or surprising information, with the second item being more surprising than the first.
  • In informal writing, you may omit the word also from the expression without altering the meaning of the sentence.
  • Create parallelism by following each part of the expression with the same part of speech.
  • Correlative conjunctions, such as not only…but also, don’t require commas to separate the pairs.
  • Related words can replace not only…but also to a similar effect. These include: moreover, besides, as well as, similarly, and equally important.

Not only but also is a two-part expression that’s used to create emphasis, convey unexpected information, or add balance to a sentence. Discover how to use this phrase effectively, including tips for parallelism and plenty of examples.

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When you’re trying to convey unexpected but related information or emphasize a surprising fact, you might find yourself using not only…but also. This word pairing is useful when linking two closely connected clauses or other elements of a sentence.

If you find this two-part expression working its way into your writing repertoire, here are a few things to keep in mind.

What Does not Only but Also Mean?

Not only…but also essentially sets up two related elements of a sentence. This may include facts, thoughts, details, or pieces of information. It often conveys unexpected or surprising information, and its two-part structure implies that the second item is more unexpected than the first.
Two boys labeled as
Not only but also is a correlative conjunction, which conveys related pieces of information.

Constructing a Sentence With not Only but Also

In a sentence, the actual construct of the expression looks like this: not only thisbut also that. This and that represent the information, facts, or ideas that are being expressed in each phrase.

Her young daughter made friends not only in the park but also at the dentist’s office.

In this example, the two pieces of related information revolve around where a young girl made friends. While making friends at the park may seem commonplace, making friends at the dentist’s office is unexpected.

Creating Connections: not Only but Also as a Part of Speech

Not only…but also is a correlative conjunction. The simple explanation for a correlative conjunction is words or phrases that work together to link words, clauses, or phrases. They are similar to coordinating conjunctions but convey a stronger connection between the linked ideas.

Other Correlative Conjunctions

Other correlative conjunctions include:

  • both…and
  • either…or
  • neither…nor
  • whether…or
Whether you choose the chocolate ice cream or the raspberry sorbet you won’t be disappointed.
Neither the plaid skirt nor the red pants looked good with my white blouse.
Both the campus newspaper and the literary magazine dedicated their issues to the college’s most beloved professor.
Either you want to go to college or you want to pursue acting.

In each of these examples, the correlative conjunctions serve to highlight the relationship between elements in the sentence. For the first sentence, that would be chocolate ice cream and raspberry sorbet. In subsequent sentences, that would be the plaid skirt/red pants, the campus newspaper/literary magazine, and going to college/pursuing acting.

Creating Parallelism with not Only but Also

Some grammarians, editors, and writers believe that not only…but also must be used with parallel structure. Others disagree, arguing that it’s more a question of style.

When using not only…but also, parallelism means that each part of the phrase should be followed by the same parts of speech. In other words, if a noun follows not only, then a noun should follow but also, as well. If not only is followed by a verb phrase, then but also should be followed by a verb phrase, too.

Pete not only works at the pet shop but also volunteers with a wild tiger rescue.

In this example, each part of the not only…but also expression precedes a verb phrase for parallelism.

His dog loved not only fresh green beans but also frozen zucchini.

In this example, a noun phrase follows both not only and but also to maintain parallelism.

Do you Have to use but Also With not Only?

Well, it depends. In formal writing, it’s probably a good idea to stick with the traditional not only…but also structure. With less formal writing, writers may choose to omit the word also, so the phrase becomes: not only…but. The meaning of the sentence should remain unchanged.

It was not only a long flight but also a treacherous one.
It was not only a long flight but a treacherous one.

Although the meaning between the two sentences remains essentially the same, readers may perceive the second sentence as slightly less formal.

Minor Variations

In another variation of not only…but also, a noun or pronoun may be inserted between but and also.

Not only is the kid excellent in grammar, but she is also a whiz in math.

In this example, the words she is have been inserted between but and also to create a better flow.

Note: Although but also can be split, the same doesn’t hold true for not only. The first word pair in this two-part expression should never be split.

Not Only but Also: Comma Considerations

You knew commas would fit in somewhere, right? Not to worry, because there’s a simple rule to follow when punctuating not only…but also.

Since not only…but also is a correlative conjunction, no comma is necessary when punctuating the pair.

Nicole is not only a great student, but also a first-rate athlete.
Nicole is not only a great student but also a first-rate athlete.

Note: Although no commas are needed when punctuating this pair, commas may be added in special circumstances for extra emphasis.

Replacing not Only: Synonyms for This Formal Pair

Not only…but also can feel too formal for some styles of writing. If less-formal wording seems more appropriate, there are other options.

Try replacing not only…but also with transitional words or phrases such as:

  • Likewise
  • Similarly
  • In addition to
  • Both…and
  • Moreover
  • Besides
  • Equally important
  • As well as
  • Further

And, there are plenty more where those came from.

Nuances of Meaning

Whenever you select words, you’re choosing nuances in meaning. By opting for a different word or phrase, you may alter the meaning of your sentence ever so slightly. You may also alter the tone of your prose, making it less formal or more conversational.

The Issue of Rephrasing

Some sentences may also require restructuring or rephrasing in order to accommodate a change of vocabulary.

Erin wanted not only a stable job but also a rewarding career.

This sentence shows the correct usage of not only…but also. There are, however, other ways of expressing a similar sentiment.

Erin wanted a stable job. Equally important, she wanted a rewarding career.
In addition to a stable job, Erin wanted a rewarding career.
Erin wanted a stable job. Moreover, she wanted a rewarding career.
As well as wanting a stable job, Erin wanted a rewarding career.

When comparing these sentences, you may notice that the emphasis changes, placing importance on one of the phrases more or less. The meaning of the sentence may change accordingly.

Matters of Style: Closing the Book on not Only but Also

Some writers may consider not only…but also to be one stylistic choice among many. After all, there are multiple options for linking two related thoughts, with each creating different shades of meaning.

Whether you opt for this phrase or another one is up to you, and it may depend on the type of writing you’re doing. Most importantly, your sentence should not only sound natural but also be clear in meaning. That, above all, is what writing should be about.

Quick Not Only… But Also Quiz

Not Only... But Also Question #1

1. What type of conjunction is
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. “Not only...but also” is a correlative conjunction. They're words or phrases that work together to link words, clauses, or phrases

Not Only... But Also Question #2

Complete the sentence. Ivy not only eats fruits ___ eats vegetables.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. "Not only...but also" is used to convey two related facts, thoughts, or pieces of information.

Not Only... But Also Question #3

Which of these are NOT correlative conjunctions?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. Correlative conjunctions serve to highlight the relationship between elements in the sentence.

Not Only... But Also Question #4

Complete the sentence. Jane is “neither” angry ____ upset.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. “Neither...nor” are correlative conjunctions.

Not Only... But Also Question #5

Less formal writing can omit the word
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. The phrase becomes: “not only…but.”

Not Only... But Also Question #6

It would be best if you punctuated a “not only...but also” pair with a comma.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is FALSE. Since “not only…but also” is a correlative conjunction, no comma is necessary.

Read More: What Is A Prepositional Phrase And What Are Some Examples?

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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