I read a sentence 'Most animals lived very close to the margin of survival.' And the writer wanted to say:

'Most animals lived in conditions that were hard to survive.'

I wonder whether his sentence is awkward or not.

  • 2
    It's not awkward to me. I'm a native speaker of American English. Think of the "margin" of a piece of paper, a narrow area running adjacent to the edge. That is "close to the edge, nearly off the edge". In your quote's metaphor, the edge is non-survival. Death. These animals were surviving, but were close to the edge (of death). Surviving, but barely. – Dan Bron Jan 19 '18 at 12:32
  • The expression is generally used in financial contexts: books.google.com/ngrams/… - here is an example in a context similar to yours: “ The well- rooted image of Iceland's premodern human ecology is of a population struggling to survive in an inhospitable environment, pursuing European-style farming too near the Arctic and some highly active volcanoes, always on the margin of survival.” – user067531 Jan 19 '18 at 12:56
  • Google Books claims over 90 written instances of live at the margin of survival (and about the same for live on the margin of survival). – FumbleFingers Jan 19 '18 at 12:57
  • Pleases don't close the question. It is about a technical usage within the science of Ecology and Anthropology. – Phil Sweet Jan 19 '18 at 16:32
  • See page 408, top para of second column here for an extended example with definitions. – Phil Sweet Jan 19 '18 at 16:35

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