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I watch the TV series Glee to learn English and came across the phrase if anything. It's in a sentence Rachel said.

If anything, she is gonna kill all of our chances to achieve that elusive goal (she means nationals by that).

The context is that Mr. Shue the teacher wants to recruit Sugar Mota who sings awfully.

At first, I thought that meant if anything happens but it didn't feel right. Then I thought of the phrase if nothing else, which means Mota might do a lot of damage to the Glee Choir and killing all the chances was only one of them and probably the most important one. But it didn't feel right, either.

What does the phrase mean here?

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closed as general reference by RegDwigнt Jun 8 '12 at 9:59

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Mr. Shue believes Sugar Mota adds value to the team, increasing their chances of winning the nationals. Rachel seems to disagree with the teacher's decision to recruit Sugar Mota. Rachel does not share the same confidence in Sugar Mota as their teacher does. In this instance, "if anything" is Rachel's way of saying with all the possible outcomes adding the new member to the team may create, the most likely outcome is they will lose the competition with the new team member. You were on the right track with regard to "if anything happens." In this case "anything" can be either good, or bad. Rachel is suggesting the latter is more probable.

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It doesn't mean "if anything happens", as is shown by the fact that you can't substitute "if anything happens" for it. A better paraphrase would be "if its effect is anything", i.e. "if it has any effect at all". –  Colin Fine Jun 8 '12 at 11:09

"If anything" means if anything significant happens. The only alternative is for nothing significant to happen. So "if anything" means "the only alternative to nothing of importance or significance".

"If anything, she is gonna kill all of our chances to achieve that elusive goal (she means nationals by that)."

This means that either she will kill their chances, or she will do nothing relevant. That means she will definitely not help them. If she has any effect whatsoever, it will be to kill their chances.

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No it doesn't. It means "If its effect is anything". –  Colin Fine Jun 8 '12 at 11:09
    
@ColinFine: That's what I was trying to get at with: "If she has any effect whatsoever, it will be to kill their chances." I'll clarify. –  David Schwartz Jun 8 '12 at 12:26

You're on the right track with your latter supposition. If anything is essentially synonymous with if nothing else. It means "At a minimum, this will happen".

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You have a point but somehow @skyline818 seems have a better argument. –  Gnijuohz Jun 8 '12 at 1:53

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