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    • Join Date: Apr 2008
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    emphatic negation

    -Have we got any butter?

    - No, not at all. (1)
    - No, not in the least (2)
    - No, not an ounce. (3)

    Which of the above replies is grammatical?
    Could suggest other possible replies expressing the same idea?

  1. BobK's Avatar
    Harmless drudge
    English Teacher
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    Re: emphatic negation

    They're all grammatical, but the first two are inappropriate in the context. You use 'not at all' and 'not in the least' to counter someone's expectation of a negative:
    'Do you mind if I open the window' [I'm worried in case you think I should not]
    'No, not at all'/'No, not in the least'/'No, on the contrary'

    Another way of saying 'No, not an ounce' is 'No, none at all'. There are also other nouns designating a small amount - 'scrape'/'smear'... Be careful which alternative noun you use though - 'No, not a crumb' would sound very strange in this context (although, over time, substance specific nouns can become generalized - the French negative particle rien is derived from the word for 'matter'/'thing'); indeed the Italian negative particle mica is related to the French for 'crumb' - miette. Something similar is happening to the English "jot" (the noun, not the verb) - Iota and Jot - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : the phrase 'not a jot' doesn't necessarily refer to writing.


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