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If I think that an event does not take place at all but the event does take place once, is the other person correct in saying that the event takes place more often / more frequently than I think?

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  • If it only happens once, then it is incorrect to say that the event takes place more often / more frequently than you think. "More often and more frequently" can only be used to describe events that reoccur at intervals.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:41
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    If you hang around with mathematicians, they say things like that for a joke. Physicists would probably disagree about its validity. However in normal parlance, as @Greybeard says, this doesn't work. Jul 7, 2020 at 8:45
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    @chaslyfromUK re mathematicians: A mathematician wrote "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" in which we find: “Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. - “I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” - “You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.” - “Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 7, 2020 at 9:08
  • (a) According to strict logic, once being more often/frequently than never, yes. (b) But this is really a violation of the Gricean maxim of quantity. A willful violation (eg 'truthfully' saying that you can see a cat in the garden when you can actually see 10, and you're not in a logic class) is an attempt to deceive as the default interpretation would be that you're saying there is just one cat (though two others might of course be out of sight) in the garden. Without clarifying context, 'more frequent' conventionally means rather more than 'one occasion more than'. Misrepresentation. Jul 7, 2020 at 11:06
  • Related: Usage of 'more common.
    – jsw29
    Jul 14, 2020 at 1:25

2 Answers 2

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This is yet another scenario whose analysis requires appreciation of the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. So far as semantics is concerned, yes, if you think that an event does not take place at all, but it, in fact, takes place once, then it is true that it takes place more frequently than you think. That is a straightforward logical consequence of the indubitable mathematical truth that one is greater than zero.

However, so far as pragmatics is concerned, such an utterance would be infelicitous, odd, out of place, in spite of being true. Saying that something is more frequent than something else, implicates that both things do actually take place. While in some special contexts (particularly scientific ones) it may be useful to speak of not taking place as taking place with the frequency of zero, this is not what people would say in everyday exchanges.

Similar questions can be raised, and similar answers given about whether, for example, an object that moves slowly is faster than an object that stands still, or whether something unlikely is more probable than something that is altogether impossible.

The OP's example is, however, further complicated by the fact that it says 'the event does take place once', without making it clear what the timeframe is: once a year, once a century, once in a lifetime, once in all eternity. If it means once ever, then its frequency is infinitesimally small, which renders it additionaly problematic to say that it takes place more frequently.

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  • hi,consider the following scenario :-
    – user391030
    Jul 13, 2020 at 6:53
  • person A :event does not take place .
    – user391030
    Jul 13, 2020 at 6:54
  • person b:event takes place more often / more frequently (way more than once) than you(person a) thinks .
    – user391030
    Jul 13, 2020 at 6:55
  • is the usage of more frequently/more often still incorrect when one person thinks an event does not take place at all and the other person is aware of this fact and in rsponse says ,that the event takes place more frequently/more often (way more than one) than the 1st person thinks ..
    – user391030
    Jul 13, 2020 at 6:56
  • @user391030, as the answer explains, it would be true, but infelicitous, odd, out of place, in spite of being true; to understand that better, one needs to acquaint oneself with the distinction between semantics and pragmatics.
    – jsw29
    Jul 13, 2020 at 15:40
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Often by definition applies to events occurring many times. Strictly speaking, because no more than one occurrence of the event was observed, the other person has no knowledge of the frequency of the event and it would be literally wrong on their part to say that the event takes place more often / more frequently than you thought.

But if the other person did make the statement, it would have been most possibly for dramatic effect and such statements fall under a figure of speech called hyperbole.

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  • More often and more frequently are terms that express relative frequency; something can happen more frequently than something else, even though it does not happen frequently, on some absolute scale.
    – jsw29
    Jul 14, 2020 at 15:40

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