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I am not a native English speaker, but I have been learning it for a long time. Now, in my English textbook written in my language (not English), I saw the following sentence:

We sell up to 10 computers a day.

I thought the equivalent of this sentence would be

We sell at most 10 computers a day.

because up to means indicating a maximum amount according to Google's dictionary, and to my knowledge. This should basically mean

We sell 10 or fewer computers a day.

However, the corresponding translation listed right below that sentence in my textbook says in my language:

We sell at least 10 computers a day.

I thought this textbook was wrong, and wanted to call the publisher about this, but I thought I should ask some of my American friends who were born and grew up in the U.S. and whose mother tongue is English.

Surprisingly, some of them said the textbook is actually correct, and the sentence can mean "more than 10 computers" or "at least 10 computers", and the rest of them said the textbook is wrong because up to should only mean "at most" or "less/fewer than".

Now, I don't know which one is correct. So, can "up to" mean "more than" or "at least"?

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  • Count up to ten. Will you mention eleven if you do as asked? Mar 23, 2018 at 23:27
  • There is no possibility that “up to” could mean “more than” or "at least” or anything like either. This has nothing to do with English… only the most simple comparison between basic maths and every language: English, Outer Mongolian or anything else. After accepting that, please go back to whatever language this came from and find a better translator… if you have no other method, determine “a better translator” as one who could explain all of this in terms that suited you in all relevant languages. Apr 7, 2018 at 22:20

2 Answers 2

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I agree with you on this one. "Up to" means "at most". If I said "My car can carry up to 5 people", you wouldn't expect that I could carry a 6th person.

This is often used for sales that say something like "save up to 25%" because the store hopes people will think "I'll save 25%", when the real amount will depend on which items are on sale for which discount.

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  • This is correct if looked at with mathematics and equality perspectives. But when the "upto" is used as "intended marketing strategy"(but actually a marketing gimmick to hide the potential technological limits/flaws in the sold item), it mostly has hidden expectation from people(potential buyers/to be customers) to know that "upto" mostly means "less than", so as to avoid any legal/verbal battles due to the seller's item not meeting the customer's exact targeted expectations after he purchased and used it for sometime. Like "we provide broadband speed upto 100 Mbps" and many others I am sure
    – Vicky Dev
    Mar 30, 2021 at 20:25
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You are right. up to indicates both a range and a maximum. So at least would be incorrect.

I do not know Spanish well (I assume it is with Spanish that you are dealing). I see that the most literal word for up to might be hasta. But it might have a range of meaning that is wider than up to. Or it may be that whatever the corresponding word is has a broader range of meanings than up to.

It would, in future, be helpful to include the whole context of your question.

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