Does the expression "to add another dimension to the situation" imply that the situation has become more complex?

In Arabic we would say something like "adds another dimension to the situation that has become more complex". But I know English tends to be very economic and implicit. So if I wanted to express that idea, would "adds another dimension to the situation" be enough? Or do I have to say that the situation has become more complex?

  • Apparently, you are not clear about what adding a new dimension means, but would like to use that cliche for effect. Right?
    – Kris
    Jan 23, 2013 at 5:14

3 Answers 3


Generally, "adds another dimension" would mean a completely new factor has been added into consideration.

With a work of art, this could mean that it got richer: "switching the narrative focus to the the antagonist in the second act added another dimension". (And of course, puns abound when people make 3D films).

With a "situation" in which conflicting interests are at play, then it would indeed make things more complex. Imagine a plan to sell a public building to a private interest that was being opposed because it would stop the services currently available there. Now imagine that while the debate on that was going on, a new group started objecting to the environmental impact of the private interest's plans. That would add another dimension to the situation, because it's a completely new consideration in the argument about whether the sale should go ahead.

On the other hand, if there had been 10 people objecting at first on the grounds of services being stopped, and later there were 200, then the addition of more opposing views would complicate things - 200 are less likely to be convinced of a compromise solution than 10, for example - but it wouldn't be a new dimension.

  • well based on your answer, I think that it does imply 'the situation becoming more complex' since the precedent paragraphs have been talking about difficulties encountered in the past. Thanks :)
    – reery
    Jan 21, 2013 at 13:05
  • Yes, my point though is that it doesn't mean that in all contexts, and in this context it still means more than that.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 21, 2013 at 14:56

Adding another dimension and making things more complex are two different things.

It is possible to add another dimension, and make the solution simple. For instance, a highway intersection in two dimensions is complicated, because the traffic streams should not intersect, but must intersect. In three dimensions, the traffic can flow without intersections.

Adding another dimension increases both possible solutions and possible problems.

Adding complexity increases interrelationships between solutions and problems.

  • Remark that complexity has a specific meaning in computation. It is a measure of how easily a computational problem can be solved. This breaks down into 3 main groups: unsolvable, semi-solvable, and solvable. Of these the last one is additionally broken down into subgroups of solvable at best by a bounded run time.
    – thang
    Jan 21, 2013 at 17:39

Adding another dimension to the situation can mean the issues have grown in size or complexity. Or it could mean, simply, that the situation hasn't changed in and of itself but that another perspective has been discovered which hadn't been considered before.

For example, suppose you were looking directly down on the top of a pair of dice, about which you had no knowledge whatsoever, and you saw the patterns for six and one. You could say that it is a property of dice that they show the patterns for 6 and 1. Someone looking from the side might also see other numbers as well as your own, and so even though the dice haven't changed or become more complicated, a new "dimension" has been added to the study of the dice, meaning that someone has viewed the problem from a different angle that reveals more information. More information does imply more complexity, but does not mean that the complexity wasn't already there, only that it has been discovered.

  • With a regulation die, if you know the locations of any two counts, you know the locations of the other four as well. Eg, if 1 is on top and the near side is 2, then 3 is on the right, 4 on the left, 5 on the back, and 6 on the bottom. So for dice, only half a dimension more is needed to get complete information, rather than a full dimension being required. Jan 21, 2013 at 17:13
  • 1
    Obviously my example was simplistic to make a point. It supposes beings who don't know what is on the other side of each die, nor do they understand the relationships involved. I will edit for the literal-minded. Sigh.
    – Robusto
    Jan 21, 2013 at 17:19

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