I'm using a phrase like "We will see if there isn’t a way we can help you with that problem" and I've done this many times before. The (perhaps incorrectly) implied meaning is that I'll exhaust all possible ways that I can help, and not that I'm actively looking for ways to NOT help.

Does this make sense? I've been doing this for years, and presumably I picked this up somewhere, but after a thorough Googling I can't find any reference to it.

  • Yes, it makes perfect sense and is quite common. It’s not particularly logical, but it’s in common usage. Why did you tag this old-english, though? It’s nothing to do with Old English… Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 11:40
  • I've removed the flag, thanks for the input, I feel much better! Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 11:44
  • I would say that this is more of a simple colloquialism rather than having any real logical meaning. In other words, it's a colloquial (and therefore, perhaps, more friendly) alternative to saying "We'll see if there is a way...". I don't think many people would take it to mean that you're going to be so thorough that you will exhaust all possibilities, at least any more than you would be if you'd said "We'll see if there is a way...". Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 12:41
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    I hear isn't as short for this imaginary conversation: You say "No." I say "Well, isn't there some way?" You say "We'll see if there isn’t." Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 15:07
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    Perhaps it goes along the lines of proof by contradiction. In trying (unsuccessfully) to demonstrate that there isn't such a way, you show constructively (i.e. by actually doing it) that there is.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


This sentence isn't technically wrong, it's just not standard convention. When you are communicating casually, it really doesn't matter. I've heard this before, so it's probably quite common as well.

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