Can You Start a Sentence With “Not”?

It is correct to start formal sentences with “not.” The term “not” often starts the first of two clauses. E.g., “Not only is his attitude terrible, but he is also unpunctual.” It can also continue from the previous sentence. E.g., “His attitude is awful. Not to mention his punctuality.”

The word “not” is quite versatile and has several functions. One is that it introduces the first of two points. Using “not only” in this way emphasizes that two related things occurred or are true.

  • Not only were we late, but we also forgot our passports.
  • Not only do I love you, but I want to marry you as well.

You can also add the word “that” to form the term “not that.” You can use this term to reduce the first clause’s importance or indicate a level of regard or intention for something.

  • Not that you care, but I am moving out and want a divorce. 
  • Not that I wanted to fire him, but I had no choice.

Now you have read the basics regarding “not.” Keep reading the rest of the page to learn more about using “not” in formal and informal texts.

We’ve also provided a few synonyms that you can use instead of “not” in formal writing.

Can You Start a Sentence With “Not” in Formal Writing?

Starting sentences and paragraphs with “not” in formal or academic writing is perfectly correct. However, the term “not” has various functions depending on what word comes after it.

However, when it appears as “not only,” it starts the first of two clauses that relate to each other in some way.

  • Not only did we interview the participants in person, but we also sent them paper surveys.

When you combine it to be “not that,” you usually use it to contrast two things or to say how something “actually” is.

  • Not that the experiment was a failure, but it was time-consuming and costly.
  • Not that we are worried, but our competitors performed well last year.

Finally, you can start a sentence with “not to mention,” which is usually a continuation of the previous sentence.

  • The war was not well received by citizens. Not to mention that in total, it costs over $4 billion. 

“Not” can be quite an informal way to start a sentence. Therefore, you can use an alternative like the ones listed below.

  • Apart from
  • Besides

Can You Start a Sentence With “Not” in Informal Writing?

It is standard and common to start sentences with “not” in informal writing.

However, you can use “not” in several ways at the start of a sentence.

As with many adverbs at the beginning of sentences, what comes after “not” is what determines the meaning.

For example:

  • Not that
  • Not to mention
  • Not only
  • Not because

The above phrases vary slightly, and the following examples highlight that variation.

  • Not that he cares, but his wife has left him, and they repossessed his house.
  • His wife has left him. Not to mention, they also repossessed his house.
  • Not only has his wife left him, but they have also repossessed his house.
  • Not because his wife left him was the house repossessed. He hadn’t made the payments for months.