no more...than vs. not more...than?

goophy

Senior Member
Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
Hello,

Could anyone help explicate the following sentences as plain as possile? Are they interchangeable? Thanks in advance!

A. John is no more intelligent than Sam.

B. John is not more intelligent than Sam.


Goophy
 
  • francais2008

    Member
    Canadian English, Punjabi
    No, they are not interchangeable.
    A means that John is of equal intelligence as Sam. But B means that John is less intelligent than Sam.
     

    goophy

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
    I read an explanation from the internet saying that sentence A means: both John and Sam are not intelligent. I was wondering if the 'no more...than' pattern is kind of ambiguous?

    By the way, I just checked Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, there's one sentence that seems to imply they're interchangeable? Here's the quote:

    Selling goods abroad is no more difficult (=not more difficult) than selling to the home market.


    Thanks for your prompt reply, francais 2008. :)
     
    Last edited:

    francais2008

    Member
    Canadian English, Punjabi
    Well, in A we don't have information about Sam's intelligence. Sam could be smart, so according to A, John would be smart as well (but he wouldn't be considered a genius). Since Sam's level of smartness is not established, the internet explanation could be plausible as well.

    I don't think the "no more...than" pattern is ambiguous (at least when making comparisons). Did you have any examples where it did not mean equivalence?
     

    goophy

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
    The reason that I surmised it's ambiguous comes from the translation of my mother tongue because the translation goes like 'Both John and Sam are not intelligent'. However, when I read this Enlgish sentence, it occurred to me it only means 'John is on a par with Sam.' It's not necessary that they are not intelligent. Am I right?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This is how I see it:

    I agree that this is ambiguous.
    John is no more intelligent than Sam.
    [space]
    The construction is used colloquially to deny that either is intelligent.
    Sam is a fool, and John is no more intelligent than Sam.
    It also may be simply an assertion that doesn't imply anything about how intelligent either of them are.
    [Edit: As goophy says, it may simply mean that they are on a par. ]

    On the other hand, the second sentence is not ambiguous.
    People think of John as the smarter brother, but John is not more intelligent than Sam.
    It is simply an assertion that no matter how intelligent John is (or isn't,) Sam equally intelligent. It doesn't imply anything about how intelligent either is.

    Added: Cross-posted with goophy. I think I agree with that understanding.
     

    LaVache

    Senior Member
    English- American
    I'd say that neither sentence tells you that they are of equal intelligence.

    Both sentences say that John's intelligence is less than/equal to that of Sam. (Just not more)

    Using "not" as opposed to "no" adds emphasis to the sentence.

    You'd have to look at the context to understand what the author/speaker really thought about John's intelligence.
     

    francais2008

    Member
    Canadian English, Punjabi
    Oh, you meant ambiguous in another sense (sorry, I haven't been on these forums in a while). So, I agree, the "no more...than" pattern is ambiguous.

    Again, sorry about the confusion... :)
     

    goophy

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
    Thanks, Cagey!

    John is not more intelligent than Sam.

    This is how I see it: 'less than' is not necessarily equal to 'not more than'. John is as intelligent as Sam at best. Could I read it like that?
     

    goophy

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese
    Sorry for being bothersome!

    I'd like to make sure the 'no more adj. than...' pattern. I mean what the native speakers of English normally use this pattern? Could anyone give me a definite answer?

    Is it frequently used as 'no adj. more than...' or used as 'not over the level adj. than ....' (Sorry for my poor English! I hope you guys understand what I'm talking about.)?

    Example: Amber is no more beautiful than Becca.

    meaning1: Amber is not beautiful, and Becca is not beautiful, either. But by comparison, Amber could be less beautiful than Becca. To put in a short but cruel way, Amber is as ugly as Becca.

    meaning2" Amber is beatiful, and Becca is beautiful, too. But by comparison, Amber is less beatiful than Becca or Amber is as beautiful as Becca at best.

    At last, go back to the point where I originally ask: Are they never interchangeable--no more adj...than / not more adj...than


    Thanks very much!
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Senior Member
    English - US
    They sure seem interchangeable to me. I see no difference in meaning.

    We are probably more likely to use "no more than" when making comparisons, and "not more than" when contradicting a statement, but either is possible in either case.
     
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