Not a footprint to be seen/not a word

MrRise

Senior Member
Russian
Hello, could you please explain to me if I'm right to say that:

Saying Not a footrpint to be seen in a song called Let it Go from the cartoon Frozen means: No one footprint can be seen, and if a person says: I see not a footprint (might be incorrect, i.e. written by me) = there could be some footprints but this person cannot see even one of them.

Or as I've heard (and saw in subtitles) watching Sherlock, there were three friends, Mike Stamford, John Watson and Sherlock.

Sherlock said: "Potential flatmates should know everything of each other (or something like that)". Then John said to Mike: "You said him about me (Or something like that), and then Mike said: "Not a word."

What means (I think...): "No, I didn't say even one word."

So, make me sure, then, please! :)
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    No. "Not a footprint to be seen" means that there are no footprints.

    The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
    Not a footprint to be seen
    A kingdom of isolation,
    And it looks like I'm the queen.
    It has been snowing on the mountain and there are no people anywhere. Any footprints that might have been there from people passing earlier have been covered with new snow.
     

    MrRise

    Senior Member
    Russian
    No. "Not a footprint to be seen" means that there are no footprints.



    It has been snowing on the mountain and there are no people anywhere. Any footprints that might have been there from people passing earlier have been covered with new snow.
    Alright, so there is snow everywhere on the mountain, and Elsa sings: Not a pootprint to be seen. There are no footprints, thus, what's logical, Elsa or someone else cannot see even one? I wonder exactly in it (even one). Does it mean even one? If it does, am I right about 'Not a word'?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    There are no footprints, not (even) one footprint. "Even" emphasizes that even though one footprint would be a tiny number of footprints there are not even that many. This is a very common use of "even" -- so common it's hard to explain without using "even".
    If there was only one footprint, you could say "There is just one footprint." to emphasize the existence of an unexpectedly small number. "Not even one" is the non-existence of a unexpectedly small number.
    No one can see any because there are no footprints, and Elsa is the only one there anyway.
     

    MrRise

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There are no footprints, not (even) one footprint. "Even" emphasizes that even though one footprint would be a tiny number of footprints there are not even that many. This is a very common use of "even" -- so common it's hard to explain without using "even".
    If there was only one footprint, you could say "There is just one footprint." to emphasize the existence of an unexpectedly small number. "Not even one" is the non-existence of a unexpectedly small number.
    No one can see any because there are no footprints, and Elsa is the only one there anyway.
    I got you about there's no footpirnts. But thus I should think of using such a construction as: Not (a) + noun - as emphasizing? Here it's emphasizing to show there are no footprints, there's no even one. It's only snow what there is. And it's covering all what there is, uncluding footprints.

    But what about 'Not a word', could you explain it to me as well? Or say if I'm right? As I thought just now, it could emphasize all the absence of something.

    Can I say, for example let's think there's holyday, but some corporations are working, but there's little workers in. And let's think Sam is one of them (workers who works even on holydays), and he came because he needs to. And then he said to me: 'When I came in.. You know, not a worker to be seen!' or something like that... what means 'No one of workers were in'.

    So what about my thought of this construction: to emphasize all the absence of something. I just saw the translation of such a construction, and looking for explanation. :)
     

    Babbit

    Member
    Italian
    I was about to post a new thread about the same sentence.

    The song goes "The snow glows white on the mountain tonight" and then "Not a footprint to be seen". I understand what it means, but I don't get the way the last sentence is written. I would say "Not a footprint is seen", like I just wrote "sentence is written".

    Can anyone, please, make another example to make me understand?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s an idiom to say that “there was not a [whatever]” to be seen, or heard, or found in a certain place. It not only emphasises but also dramatises the statement.

    There was not a [single] footprint to be seen = The place was totally devoid of footprints​

    Other examples:

    The playground was deserted. There was not a child to be seen.

    Nobody seemed to care, and there was not a policeman to be found. Venice was a world of its own.

    There was not a sound to be heard nor was there a figure to be seen. All was quiet.

     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I was about to post a new thread about the same sentence.

    The song goes "The snow glows white on the mountain tonight" and then "Not a footprint to be seen". I understand what it means, but I don't get the way the last sentence is written. I would say "Not a footprint is seen", like I just wrote "sentence is written".
    The sentence was written. There is a sentence and someone wrote it.
    In this case, there is no footprint and no one saw it.
    The fact that the sentence is a negative sentence about non-existent footprints makes it confusing.
    Imagine that there is a footprint and there is someone sees it. The footprint is seen. Because someone saw it, it has been seen.
    Imagine that there is a footprint and there is no one sees it. The footprint is not seen, but it is there to be seen should anyone pass by.
    Here we have no footprint and no one to see it. There is no footprint to be seen.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
    (And there is) Not a footprint to be seen


    It's not really talking about what she sees in a personal sense. If it was her talking normally she would say: and I don't see any footprints.

    But this isn't talk, this is a song. It's meant to convey something directly to the audience. The people who wrote the song are telling the audience - there are no footprints, there is no one on the mountain.

    "There is not" means they don't exist - not that they are there but she doesn't see them. She couldn't see very much on a mountainside in the dark anyway. She couldn't really know that they don't exist if she was a real person, but she's a movie character who knows that is true because she needs to know that to sing the song the writers have written for her. It's about art, not reality.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top