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  1. #1
    Kotfor is offline Member
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    least in these sentence

    I am trying to figure out a few things about "least" in these sentences

    1) I'm not the least surprised that she's leaving. (Does it mean: I am not at all surprised.
    2) I'm not teaching anything the least bit challenging any more. (I am not sure what it means)

    3) This chair squeaks the least. (Would the following mean the same: This chair squeaks least.)

    4) Not least among our difficulties is our lack of funding. (If it were an affirmative sentence would it be:"The least among our difficulties is our lack of funding" or Not the least among.... is also possible)
    Last edited by Kotfor; 23-Oct-2012 at 08:23.

  2. #2
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: least in these sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by Kotfor View Post
    I am trying to figure out a few things about "least" in these sentences

    1) I'm not the least surprised that she's leaving. (Does it mean: I am not at all surprised.
    2) I'm not teaching anything the least bit challenging any more. (I am not sure what it means)
    not the least [bit] = not at all
    Quote Originally Posted by Kotfor View Post
    3) This chair squeaks the least. (Would the following mean the same: This chair squeaks least.)
    It would be understood, but 'the' usually refers to a comparator: 'Of all the chairs [in the room], this one squeaks the least.' If you were stating a general case, you wouldn't use 'the': 'This chair squeaks least when it's just been serviced'.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kotfor View Post
    4) Not least among our difficulties is our lack of funding. (If it were an affirmative sentence would it be:"The least among our difficulties is our lack of funding" or Not the least among.... is also possible)
    No. The 'not' is there for a reason, if that's what you mean. So 'the least among our difficulties is lack of funding' is possible but unlikely, except when dismissing a line of argument: 'Lack of funding is the least of our worries. Let's talk about the real issue - customer relations.'.

    If you have a 'priority-one' problem, it is the most urgent. If you have a 'priority-five' oroblem, it is the least urgent. A problem with any other priority is 'not the least urgent]'. What it means, generally, is 'We've also got this problem, which is maybe not the most important - but it's certainly not the least important.'

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 23-Oct-2012 at 10:42. Reason: Clarify

  3. #3
    Kotfor is offline Member
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    Re: least in these sentence

    Your answer helps. There is only one thing which I haven't completely understood. I think I wasn't clear enough on: Not least among our difficulties is our lack of funding.

    I just want to understand why the "the" is left out in

    Not least among our difficulties is our lack of funding. (Why not - Not the least among our difficulties is our lack of funding)

  4. #4
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    Re: least in these sentence

    Usage! For example, BNC has one case of 'not the least among' but thirty of 'not least among'. COCA shows a similar bias, but less marked: 4 with 'the', 38 without.

    Sorry with language you can't always explain why; that's just how it is. With a 'the' in that context, you'd certainly be understood; you just wouldn't sound natural.

    b

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