If it is written that X is not as tall as Y, it indicates that X and Y have unequal heights. But does this necessarily imply that X is shorter than Y?


In the absence of further elaboration, yes: "I am not as X as you" implies that you have more X-quality than I do. If X is "tall", then I am shorter than you.

It is possible to follow up for a humorous (or insulting) reversal of the normal implication:

I am not as good as he is... I'm actually way better.

But if you don't do this explicit countering, the default reading is that "not as X as" is always "less X than".

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  • That shows that it's an invited inference, or possibly a Gricean implicature. To the extent they're different. What's interesting is that this only works with the at least as ... as variety of equative; the exactly as ... as doesn't have this property, at least not in the same way: I'm not exactly as good as he is gives the impression that the speaker is changing the basis for comparison. – John Lawler Aug 7 '15 at 22:54

Logically, I do not think it should imply X is shorter than Y.

The definition of "as" according to Dictionary.com is

to the same degree, amount, or extent; similarly; equally

So, if I were to say "X is as tall as Y." I would be saying that X is equally as tall as Y.

If I were to negate that statement, then I would have "X is not as tall as Y." Which would be saying that X is not equally as tall as Y.

However, in general speech, I do agree with Hellion that it implies X is shorter than Y.

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I see from the comments and downvotes that I have to spell it out completely for some readers.

First, if X is not as tall as Y, we can say that one of them is taller; that X is not equal to Y. Let us first assume for the sake of argument that Y is the taller, meaning that X < Y. My original comment read:

X < Y has the inescapable corollary that Y > X. As posed, the question needs no further answer.

I had assumed (it seems wrongly) that readers would appreciate that there is an equally logical mirror statement:

X > Y has the inescapable corollary that Y > X.

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  • 5
    You seem to have confused ≠ with <. – SomethingDark Aug 7 '15 at 8:07
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    @SomethingDark not as is more closely correlated with < than btw. Leaving out the word as would change it to . – insidesin Aug 7 '15 at 10:34
  • @insidesin - For the most part that's true, but then you have examples like in Hellion's answer. – SomethingDark Aug 7 '15 at 11:02
  • @SomethingDark What do you mean? Then that would be > and still not :/ – insidesin Aug 7 '15 at 12:00
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    The issue here is the implicit double-meaning of "as X as Y"; height is viewed as an ascending property, so "as tall as" implicitly means "at least as tall as" - but it can also be interpreted as "exactly the same height as", leading to the sort of thing @Hellion pointed out - the humour comes from subverting the expectations set up by the double meaning. – anaximander Aug 7 '15 at 12:23

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