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If you say you want something to occur with a "small amount of ease", what are you actually saying? I understand that the intention of this phrase is typically that you want something to be done easily; but, does it literally mean that something should be hard?

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It's a meaning of ease rather specific to sewing (or clothing): “space to move within your clothing”. So, “a small amount of ease” is synonymous with “a little leeway”, “a margin of safety”. It does not mean “effortless”.

Google Books provides some real-world hits of literal use of this expression, though it appears to be used figuratively in your case.

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It's also used in real estate, but normally as easement rather than just ease – Kevin Apr 21 '11 at 20:02

No native English speaker would ever use small amount of ease to mean effortless. The only context I could imagine it being appropriately used is if you were applying ease to something with the intent of loosening or lessening pressure, e.g., altering a garment or fitting a pipe.

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It's not about being effortless, I believe it's a sewing-specific meaning of “ease”. – F'x Apr 21 '11 at 19:36
@F'x So you are agreeing with me? – HaL Apr 21 '11 at 19:38
@HaL: I agree with you that it doesn't mean "effortless". But I don't agree that it is “improper”, it simply has a different meaning. – F'x Apr 21 '11 at 19:39
@F'x Why is "improper" in quotes? I didn't use that word (or suggest that meaning) in my answer. – HaL Apr 21 '11 at 19:41
@HaL: I mean “improper” as having the meaning contrary to “being appropriately used” (which you said). I think it can be appropriately used to mean “with a margin of safety” (see my answer). – F'x Apr 21 '11 at 19:43

You can say

  • with ease
  • with little difficulty
  • with only a small amount of effort

Or you can incorrectly muddle up these idioms and come up with a construction that doesn't make sense, taken literally, but whose meaning you can guess at.

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