want nothing more / want nothing less

Akasaka

Senior Member
Japanese
Hello everyone,
I often see expressions like "I want nothing more than to marry her." I understand this expression. But when I search for "I want nothing less than to marry her." I get few results. Do you understand what this sentence means? Is this expression grammatically incorrect?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Logos14

    New Member
    English
    Yes, they are both correct. The former means that there is no desire in your mind of greater intensity than your desire to marry her--it is paramount among the things you want. The latter means that you will be content with a relationship of no less closeness than marriage--that is, you won't be content to be a mere friend. You'll be content with nothing less than marriage.

    Let me know if this is still unclear. --Logos
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Wait, don't you think both phrases have ambiguity?

    "I want nothing more than to marry her"
    = "None of my desires is greater than my desire to marry her" = "My desire to marry her is huge" (Logos explained this very well.)
    = "I simply want to marry her" = "I want to marry her, nothing more than that/only that" (Think of a context like same-sex marriage rights: "I'm not asking for a parade, or any special benefits. I want nothing more than to marry the woman I love.")

    "I want nothing less than to marry her"
    = "None of my desires is smaller than my desire to marry her" = "I really don't want to marry her at all"
    = "My desires will only be satisfied by marrying her" = "I demand to marry her" (Logos explained this very well.)

    In practice, context and intonation should help you figure out what meaning of "nothing more/less" is intended. "Nothing less than..." is completely acceptable!
     

    Akasaka

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Wait, don't you think both phrases have ambiguity?
    "I want nothing less than to marry her"
    = "None of my desires is smaller than my desire to marry her" = "I really don't want to marry her at all"
    = "My desires will only be satisfied by marrying her" = "I demand to marry her" (Logos explained this very well.)
    I thought the latter is the opposite of the former. So it means that I don't want to marry her at all. I don't understand it could be interpreted like what Logos did.
    "My desires will only be satisfied by marrying her" = "I demand to marry her" (Logos explained this very well.)
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    The ambiguity arrives with the less. What does it modify? Compare:

    I want nothing less than X
    = There's nothing that I want less than X.
    I want nothing less than X
    = I don't want anything less than X. I want X and I won't accept anything less than X.

    Hopefully, you'll see that the two are both possible. (The same goes for "more," by the way.)
     

    MarFish

    Senior Member
    English - American
    "I want nothing more than to marry her." This means that marrying her your highest goal in the relationship. Any part of the relationship past marriage (like starting a family) is unimportant and you are satisfied with just marriage.

    "I want nothing less than to marry her." This means that you want to marry her, but you also want more after the relationship. For example this would imply you want to marry her then start a family.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    "I want nothing less than to marry her." This means that you want to marry her, but you also want more after the relationship. For example this would imply you want to marry her then start a family.
    This interpretation seems really odd to me. It seems like an acceptable paraphrase for "I don't just want to marry her," but not "I want nothing less than to marry her."

    Also, since MarFish's paraphrase of "nothing more than..." is different than Logos's, I think we should be mindful of the fact that due to the structure of the sentence and without more context there are multiple possible interpretations of the phrase.
     

    Logos14

    New Member
    English
    I've never heard of a great writer using "I want nothing less than" to denote what he does not want, precisely because this would be mistaken for the more common interpretation which denotes a lack of desire. This is an awkward roundabout way of indicating something through its opposite. This is not to say that that way of talking is unheard of, but it has to be done in a less ambiguous way.
     
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