let alone VS not to mention

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grammar-in-use

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello everyone,

As far as I know, "let alone" is normally used after a negative statement to say that the next thing is even more unlikely.

Then what about this "let alone" used in the following sentence?

By all accounts he was a freethinking person, and a courageous one, and I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, let alone the performance, of his works.

Here's the web link:
Daniel Barenboim on the beauty of Beethoven

Does "let alone" fit the above sentence? I would just have used "not to mention".

Could someone comment a bit on the use of "let alone" here?

Thanks a lot in advance!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s not a normal use of the phrase. As you say, it’s used after negative statements. This applies whether or not the statement actually contains a word such as not or never – e.g. We have scarcely enough food, let alone money. But “let alone” is not in itself negative.

    In the OP example, there is no justification for using “let alone”, but a negative replacement is needed.

    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, let alone the performance, of his works. :cross:
    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, not just the performance, of his works. :tick:
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    [...]
    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, let alone the performance, of his works. :cross:
    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, not just the performance, of his works. :tick:
    But the implications of your two sentences aren't the same. The first implies that performance sets a higher bar than understanding; the second would seem to reverse that.

    I think Barenboim's sentence is correct, if a bit verbose.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don’t get that. Another way of putting it would be:

    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, never mind the performance, of his works.​
    OR:​
    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, just as much as the performance, of his works.​
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don’t get that. Another way of putting it would be:

    I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, never mind the performance, of his works.
    The first ("let alone") implies that a degree of courage is required to understand his works, but that this is even more true of performing them. The second ("not just") implies the opposite: that merely performing the works is less demanding of courage than understanding them.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    The sentence could be written as « without courage you can’t understand his works, let alone perform them ». I agree that the original wording is non-standard but then he is not a native speaker. The expression « never mind » would fit better.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Here are some random examples of "let alone" used without an explicit negative:

    some critics 'believe most sincerely that monetizing the environment is merely a further step in global degradation of the human spirit, let alone the natural world'.

    The settlement had the records; even the simple dispossession of Indians begot in time a minuscule of archive, let alone the normal litter of man's ramshackle confederation against environment...

    Convincing our European and Japanese allies (let alone the Russians and Chinese) to agree to sanctions against Iran in any form could be very difficult.


    There's often some kind of implied negative at work, as suggested by the use of "merely" and "even the" above.
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The sentence could be written as « without courage you can’t understand his works, let alone perform them ».
    Thank you!

    Then how should I incorporate your version into the original one? How about this:
    By all accounts he was a freethinking person, and a courageous one, and I find that, without courage, you can’t understand his works, let alone perform them.
    ?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The sentence could be written as « without courage you can’t understand his works, let alone perform them ». I agree that the original wording is non-standard but then he is not a native speaker. The expression « never mind » would fit better.
    :thumbsup:

    Orig: By all accounts he was a freethinking person, and a courageous one, and I find courage an essential quality for the understanding, let alone the performance, of his works.

    Yours: By all accounts he was a freethinking person, and a courageous one, and I find that, without courage, you can’t understand his works, let alone perform them.


    I think the English sounds good but I don't think your sentence is making the same point he was making. I think his point is not that you have to have courage, his point is that you have to understand Beethoven's courage to understand his music. And to perform his music well, you need to understand it well, which includes understanding his courage.

    If I'm mistaken and he means the performer has to have courage then I think he is overstating things. (Or else, maybe he's using courage in a non-standard way.)
     
    Last edited:

    LVRBC

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    Reading a bit more of the cited article it is quite clear that Barenboim is saying that correct interpretation of Beethoven requires courage on the part of the performer:
    "This courageous attitude in fact becomes a requirement for the performers of Beethoven’s music. His compositions demand the performer to show courage, for example in the use of dynamics."
    Thus Grammar-in-Use's interpretation: "without courage, you can’t understand his works, let alone perform them." appears to be correct.
     
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