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You can learn the basics in three lines or so.

I want to say that you can learn the basics by reading a few lines of something (e.g. a text). Is that phrase correct?

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Yes, this is correct but it is extremely informal and usually reserved for spoken conversations. "Or so" tells the listener that it may not be exactly three lines but it should be something around that length.

An alternative exists that moves the "or so" next to "three":

You can learn the basics in three or so lines.

This can be more clear if there is a large amount of detail after "three or so".

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No I don't think it is correct. This is what I would say:

"Having read the first three lines, you will have grasped the basics."

  • That's good, but you're changing the style a lot. – Martin F Feb 15 '14 at 22:51
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No but you already provided most of the solution:

"You can learn the basics by reading a few lines only"

or

"You can learn the basics by reading only a few lines"

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