Much less [American English]

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cablino

Senior Member
English (American)
This may appear in other dialects other than American English but I heard this spoken in USA. The example just doesn't make sense to me but I know I've heard it. The phrase "much less" is sometimes used in a negative comparison to something that is exceeding the compared subject. It's hard to explain and even as a native the phrase just doesn't make sense to me as why it is understood as such.

Examples:

I can't find a penny, much less a million dollars.

I can't get a girlfriend, much less a wife!

I think ink there are also some variations of this phrase. Can someone please explain to me how this odd sounding phrase even makes sense and if there are other phrases like it or better than it.

kawabunga dudes!
 
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    My ability to find a penny is small. In fact, it is so small that I can't find one My ability to find a million dollars is much smaller than that. In other words: it is absolutely impossible for me to find a million dollars.

    My ability to find a girlfriend is small. In fact, it is so small that I can't find one. My ability to find a wife is much smaller than that. In other words: it is absolutely impossible for me to find a wife.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    This is a common expression in English, Cablino. The definition, from Merriam-Webster online: "not to mention—used especially in negative contexts to add to one item another denoting something less likely". It's actually quite logical.

    P.S.: We're not all "dudes" here.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Hi cablino,

    I think of it like this: I am unable to find a penny, and I am much less able to find a million dollars than I am to find a penny.

    I suppose it's not entirely logical to think of something being more impossible than impossible, since "impossible" is an absolute state, but that seems to be how it works.:D
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I agree with everyone, but find artichoke's explanation most artichokulate*. :)

    The only thing that occurred to me to add is that "much less" appears to be an adverb.
    In case 1, it modifies "to find".
    In case 2, it modifies "to get".

    Maybe that was all crystal clear.

    Cowabunga dude(s) and dudette!

    *Not a word yet.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I just wanted to say that the expression is not confined to a particular variety of English. Parla has already quoted the American dictionary, the Merriam-Webster's. Have a look at the entry from Oxford Dictionaries:
    much (or still) less
    Definition of much or still less in English:
    Used to introduce something as being even less likely than something already mentioned:
    what woman would consider a date with him, much less a marriage?
     
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