not ... in the least, not ... in the least bit

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
[1] Not ... in the least
[2] Not ... in the least bit

I was trying to have a clear notion of how you'd use the two constructs distinctly. My understanding thus far is [1] can be used just like 'not ... at all' as in the following examples:

I can't stand it any more at all.
I can't stand it any more in the least.


I don't like this smell at all.
I don't like this smell in the least.



And [2] is used before an adjective or past participle to mean 'not at all (adjective/ past participle).'

His way of interacting with people was not at all great.
His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit great.


Am I on the track, and is there anything else I should note?

Hiro
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Hiro,

    These two sound strange to me:

    I can't stand it any more in the least
    - the in the least detracts from the impact of the sentence.

    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit great - I'm not very happy with in the least bit; I'd probably drop the in or rewrite, because the heavy double negative is clumsy.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    His way of interacting with people was not at all pleasant.
    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit
    pleasant.

    I have changed your examples to make them more idiomatic. (great does not work in your example.)

    In example 1, the speaker uses , "not at all" This is an idiom = in any manner; could not be described as;

    In example 2, "in the least bit" was originally, "in the least part".

    The idea of
    "in the least part" was that the speaker was dividing up "his interaction" into parts, and even the least part (i.e. the smallest part of his interaction) was not pleasant.

    You will see that if (i) the least part of something is not pleasant, or (ii) or it is not at all pleasant, then the whole thing is going to be unpleasant.

    You may wish to look at the figure of speech called litotes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litotes


     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    His way of interacting with people was not at all pleasant.
    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit
    pleasant.

    I have changed your examples to make them more idiomatic. (great does not work in your example.)

    In example 1, the speaker uses , "not at all" This is an idiom = in any manner; could not be described as;

    In example 2, "in the least bit" was originally, "in the least part".

    The idea of
    "in the least part" was that the speaker was dividing up "his interaction" into parts, and even the least part (i.e. the smallest part of his interaction) was not pleasant.

    You will see that if (i) the least part of something is not pleasant, or (ii) or it is not at all pleasant, then the whole thing is going to be unpleasant.

    You may wish to look at the figure of speech called litotes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litotes

    Thanks, Paul.

    So, in terms of its appropriate structures, would 'not in the least bit' be most often followed by an adjective or past participle? And could the sentence in blue be rephrased as the following too?

    His way of interacting with people was not in the least pleasant. [Note there is no 'bit' in this]
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I can't stand it any more in the least - the in the least detracts from the impact of the sentence.
    Are you saying 'I can't stand it any more' is already strong in the agent's aversion to 'it,' and adding 'in the least' dilutes it?
    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit great - I'm not very happy with in the least bit; I'd probably drop the in or rewrite, because the heavy double negative is clumsy.
    I'm sorry, Thomas, I don't understand what you mean by 'the heavy double negative is clumsy.' If you could please explain it further, I'd appreciate it.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Hiro,

    Not small is a way of saying great: not the smallest is a way of saying rather large. Not the least bit great means small.

    By negating one attribute you suggest its opposite.

    I was wrong to call it a double negative but it has much of the clumsiness of one. I'd prefer to say His way of interacting with people was inept.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Thanks, Paul.

    So, in terms of its appropriate structures, would 'not in the least bit' be most often followed by an adjective or past participle?
    That's a good question! :D

    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bitpleasant. - adjective
    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit pleasing. - participle as adjective
    His way of interacting with people was not in the least bit restrained. - participle as adjective


    And could the sentence in blue be rephrased as the following too?

    His way of interacting with people was not in the least pleasant. [Note there is no 'bit' in this]
    Yes, least is either an adjective (least bit) or a noun (the least.)
     
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