January 3rd, 2008

(Happy New Year!)

Do these two sentences mean the same thing?

1) I wonder if X isn’t better than Y.
2) I wonder if X is better than Y.

On the surface, it’s a basic kind of statement (“I am comparing X and Y; X may be better, but I’m still thinking about it”) and they seem identical. At least superficially.

I think the sentences imply different things, though. 1) is something I would say after having already chosen Y, and then re-evaluating X. 2) can be said either before or after a choice is made, but seems slightly more natural to say before.

Then again, maybe sentence 1) is not quite Standard English and I’m just making all this up.

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