The key relationship in the C team model is the centrality of the link between political sovereignty and fiscal authority on the one hand and money creation, the mint and the central bank on the other. A key fact in the proposed Euro system is that the link is to be weakened to a degree rarely, if ever, known before. … There is to be an unprecedented divorce between the main monetary and fiscal authorities … the C team analysts worry whether the divorce may not have some unforeseen side effects.

I came across this sentence in The Economist but couldn't make out the actual meaning of it. Can anyone explain? What can we tell about "C team analysts"? Also about the usage of "whether...may not."

  • I've added what I believe is the full quote to aid in contextual analysis. Please roll back my edit if necessary. Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


I think the "whether...may not" construction is confusing here. "The C team analysts are concerned that divorcing the fiscal and monetary powers will have unforeseen side effects" would express this idea much more clearly.

The "whether" in the sentence expresses a greater degree of doubt than my suggested revision. It implies that the analysts think there may be side effects, but they are not certain.

The "may not" adds to the confusion because now the author has reversed the issue of concern, thereby once again introducing more doubt. It reminds me of someone trying to be exceptionally delicate: "I worry whether placing your dirty shoes on the couch may not stain the cushions. If you would please kindly refrain from your current course of action, I would be most pleased."

  • Yes, that's the very doubt I got when I read it. I thought that "whether...may not" is a misprint or grammatical error. But then, I fear pointing it out as an error as that this is an article from a renowned magazine, The Economist.
    – Manoj
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 18:45
  • 1
    @Manoj It's not an error. It's just rather convoluted.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 18:54
  • Yeah. But, I some how feel, I didn't understand the full meaning that's implied by the author.
    – Manoj
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 19:05
  • British English leans more toward construction like "worry whether X may not Y", and Am. English toward "worry whether X might not Y". I doubt there's any implication of delicacy. In effect both say "wonder if X will Y", or in the current case, "Analysts wonder if the divorce will have unforeseen side effects". Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 20:50
  • It's a hedge, but a very convoluted one. The meaning of I wonder whether X may not be Y is usually X is Y, you idiot!
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 21:05

This seems to be a complex use of the construct whether or not. Taken alone, whether or not should be neutral as to the likelihood of something happening. Coupled with the term worry, the sentence suggests that the speaker is concerned that the consequences are likely.

  • No, the construction whether or not does not figure in this example.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 21:01
  • The object of the team's worry is "whether the divorce may not have some unforeseen side effects".
  • "Whether" is used to present one alternative outcome of a presumed many.
  • To "not have some unforeseen side effects" can be assumed to be a desirable outcome.
  • "May" in this example indicates a possibility.

Grammatically, the sentence is saying that the team is worried about the possibility of a desirable outcome.

However, in spite of the grammatical constructs used, given that desirable outcomes are not cause for worry, it can be assumed that, as was suggested in another answer by KitFox, that the intended meaning was

The C team analysts are concerned that divorcing the fiscal and monetary powers will have unforeseen side effects

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