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Today I'd like to present my question about the passablity of what I'll post below.

Just as I talked with my american friends(I am Japanese) on discord, a certain person said to me;

Are romantic relationships more abnormal than not for Japanese in their 20s?

The context is to mock Japanese low birthrate and low marriage rate. Anyway, I got a bit confused because by him using a single "not", I couldn't tell what he really meant. With "not", we can associate the sentence with two senses or more; "not romantic relationship" or "not abnormal". According to the speaker, it means the latter. Thus I think that "more/less X than not" means "more/less X than not X". The idiom, "More often than not", "More likely than not" can be interpreted through this structure. Do you think this structure has common passablity?; That is, can I adapt this as I please, like "more brilliant than not", "more famous than not", "more easy than not". I think this structure can be better off if it is used in question sentences.

Any thought?

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  • The idiom is "more X than not (X)".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 2, 2019 at 2:49
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    I can't recall ever having heard this structure used other than in the stock phrases "more often than not" and "more likely than not." The examples that you give with abnormal, brilliant, famous and easy all sound odd to my ear.
    – Al Maki
    Jan 2, 2019 at 3:52
  • @AlMaki Certainly unusual, though whether one can rule them out, I'm not sure - since to my mind they are at least "grammatical".
    – WS2
    Sep 29, 2020 at 20:40

1 Answer 1

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Yeah, it's a neat shortcut for saying "51% or more X". And like the other answer states, the sentence you quote is a bit tortured - it's not the clearest writing. One reason is because of the "double negative", something we try to avoid. I had to pause for a moment to figure out what its author meant. And yes, also, it's sometimes said in an ironic way. Although, "more often than not" is just fine and common. It's a longer way of talking, so it goes well with a beer in one hand and a pool cue in the other.

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