College tuition is expensive enough, let alone the textbooks

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Hello guys.
My textbook says that "let alone" can be used only in negations. Something like "I can't even stand up, let alone go to work". But today I stumbled upon a phrase "College tuition is expensive enough, let alone the textbooks". Link. It's not a negation, and it uses "let alone". Can you clarify this issue to me? Do the following sentences look okay to your eyes?

- Brad Keselowsky says he's lucky to be alive, let alone driving. Link
- Internal conflicts are extremely difficult to manage, let alone resolve. Link
- Who will run, let alone win? Link
- A Thriller That's Difficult To Like, Let Alone Love. Link
- To organize a new business we need to prepare and sign a lot of different documents, let alone to bribe a cluster of local authorities’ officials. (My own sentence)

Thank you!
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Are you sure your text book says ONLY used in negations? It is certainly commonly used that way

    The usual forumla is as you say "I cannot address the easy thing let alone the harder thing" ...
    In your examples we have easy (or first) step which cannot be done followed by a harder (or subsequent action) which certainly cannot be done:

    alive - driving
    manage - resolve
    run - win
    like - love.


    "College tuition is expensive enough, let alone the textbooks". is not the usual formula, and I think let alone is being used more literally there, to mean leave out / leaving out or without considering the text book prices.
    So tuition is expensive enough, leaving out the cost of the books.

    To be honest is doesn't sound that great to me, not quite idiomatic, but certainly not "wrong".
     
    Last edited:
    Are you sure your text book says ONLY used in negations? It is certainly commonly used that way
    Thank you, Suzi, for the explanation.
    No, I'm not sure whether the book says exactly that. That's how I remember the explanation from the book, something must have slipped my mind. A great formula, btw: "I cannot address the easy thing let alone the harder thing", thanks.
    What about the last sentence from my first post? Does it look okay or did I use the "let alone"-thing wrong way?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Hello guys.


    - To organize a new business we need to prepare and sign a lot of different documents, let alone to bribe a cluster of local authorities’ officials. (My own sentence)

    Thank you!
    Hmm> I am thinking hard and not absolutely certain. It certainly doesn't sound quite like something I would say, as a native speaker. But then, neither did your first sample about text books!

    You have options. To make it like your original sample about the text book (which is not negative ) I dont think you can have the second part as an infinitive verb. It would be better like this:

    To organize a new business we need to prepare and sign a lot of different documents, let alone to bribe bribing a cluster of local authorities’ officials

    The other option is to do it as a negative in some way. ( Your own recollection that the formula is most commonly used in a situation where it is negative, which is basically correct .. most of the time!)

    So, with the same idea to make it negative you'd need:
    We can hardly prepare and sign all the different documents needed to organize our new business, let alone bribe the cluster of local authorities’ officials.

    Which was a lot of changes, actually! This reminds me of how hard it is to get a a grip on idiomatic language use.

    Good luck!
    x
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I've been hearing "let alone...." used in ways I'm not accustomed to recently, and which I have found difficult to grasp. The phrase seems to be undergoing a change in usage and possibly meaning here in the U.S.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't care if The Christian Science Monitor did write it, "College tuition is expensive enough, let alone the textbooks" is decidedly odd for me.

    And "To organize a new business we need to prepare and sign a lot of different documents, let alone to bribe a cluster of local authorities’ officials" is more unusual still.

    I wouldn't try to shoehorn "let alone" into either of these sentences, preferring to save it for the simpler comparisons we're used to, e.g. "I can't afford to rent it, let alone buy it." (Even here, I would tend to say "I can't afford to rent it, much less buy it."

    I would do this: "To set up a new business we need to prepare many documents, in addition to bribing a cluster of local officials."

    Added: Cross-posted with cyberpedant who is on the lookout for new usages which, with the attitude I've expressed above, I plan to ignore. :)
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Well I don't disagree with Copyright, really. ;)

    The new uses DO sound odd and I personally wouldn't say them!

    But I DO use let alone as a phrase in conversation quite often. I suspect it is more common in some regions than others?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    When the main or initial clause is not negative, would it be correct to say ''not to mention'' instead of ''let alone'' ?
    If you mean this: "To set up a new business we need to prepare many documents, not to mention bribe a cluster of local officials," I think it's fine, although I find it more effective – more of a surprise, if you will – after a list of items, rather than just one item. Like this: "To set up a new business we need to find investors, rent premises, arrange decorating, hire staff, and submit many documents, not to mention bribe a dozen or so local officials."
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    If you mean this: "To set up a new business we need to prepare many documents, not to mention bribe a cluster of local officials," I think it's fine, although I find it more effective – more of a surprise, if you will – after a list of items, rather than just one item. Like this: "To set up a new business we need to find investors, rent premises, arrange decorating, hire staff, and submit many documents, not to mention bribe a dozen or so local officials."
    :thumbsup:
    Thank you.
     
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