if not

hly2004

Banned
chinese
Hi, everyone:


Could you please tell me the function of "if not" ?

For examle: "Hundreds if not thousands of people.."said the reporter.

I heard that in the news, and could not understand what exactly the reporter wants to say.

(1)Does he want to say "hundres"? Why adding "if not thousands"
(2) Does he want to say "thousands? Why then seemingly "changing his ideas"?

Best wishes.
 
  • elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "Hundreds if not thousands" means "at least hundreds, maybe even thousands."
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Hi, everyone:


    Could you please tell me the function of "if not" ?

    For examle: "Hundreds if not thousands of people.."said the reporter.

    The reporter knows there were probably more than 1,500 people at an event. There may have been many more. To avoid being challenged if he said 'thousands' he hedges his bets and says 'hundreds, if not thousands, of people were at the .....'
    Then, when official figures show that there were 1,999 people there he is still correct.
    Also - it's an occasional sloppy reporter's way of hiding the fact that they never asked the organisers 'How many people.....?'
     

    hly2004

    Banned
    chinese
    The reporter knows there were probably more than 1,500 people at an event. There may have been many more. To avoid being challenged if he said 'thousands' he hedges his bets and says 'hundreds, if not thousands, of people were at the .....'
    Then, when official figures show that there were 1,999 people there he is still correct.
    Also - it's an occasional sloppy reporter's way of hiding the fact that they never asked the organisers 'How many people.....?'
    Great, I've totally got it.Thanks maxiogee:)

    It means "by my quick estimation, it reached thousands, but I think it's safe to say "hundreds"". Either one may suggest "many people".
     
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