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I can’t recommend the book enough.

Does it mean that it’s not a good book or it’s a really really good book?

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    Note to closevoters: This is not General Reference. It is interpretation of ambiguous language, which is a tricky subject. Note to poster: please edit the question to show the context which comes before the quotation, and also to show the efforts you made to research the answer before asking here.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 29, 2012 at 17:20
  • @MetaEd The default reading is certainly "I find this book extremely good', as Barrie England says, and I'd say this is ELL level pragmatics. The 'I'm not able to recommend this book enough [to justify the average student spending $200 on a copy] needs the string qualifying 'enough'. Or perhaps licensing prior context (not suggested here). Feb 18, 2021 at 12:59

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“I can't recommend the book enough” is somewhat ambiguous. It might mean the speaker likes the book tremendously, beyond his or her ability to say how much. Or it might mean the speaker cannot recommend the book.

A similar sentence, “I can’t recommend him highly enough”, is referred to at literalminded.wordpress.com as a “carefully ambiguous phrasing”.

The following, in which most sentences exhibit similar ambiguities, is a classic example of a recommendation that may look positive but is indeed quite negative. It is quoted from a Deliberate Ambiguities webpage at www.cut-the-knot.org.

You write to ask me for my opinion of X, who has applied for a position in your department. I cannot recommend him too highly nor say enough good things about him. There is no other student of mine with whom I can adequately compare him. His thesis is the sort of work you don't expect to see nowadays and in it he has clearly demonstrated his complete capabilities. The amount of material he knows will surprise you. You will indeed be fortunate if you can get him to work for you.

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In almost all contexts it will be a positive comment.

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Everything depends on context. On its face, this statement means that this book is so good that my words of praise are not sufficient, they do not do it justice. On the other hand, if the speaker or writer wants to be ironic, the same thing can be said to indicate that the book is garbage. Moses Hadas (1900-1966) replied to someone: "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book - I'll waste no time reading it."

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  • Thanks! The quote by Moses, was it sarcasm?
    – Kanini
    Dec 29, 2012 at 8:27
  • No, irony. It can be interpreted to mean "I'll begin reading your book right now" or "I won't waste a single second on reading your book. Reading it would be a waste of my time". Were it sarcasm, it would be obvious which interpretation the writer intended. Because it's irony, the reader has to guess which was intended, if the reader is sensitive enough to see that it has two conflicting meanings.
    – user21497
    Dec 29, 2012 at 8:45
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    I don't get this. "I'll waste no time reading your book" has two possible meanings (I'll read it without delay and I won't idle away my time reading it). But I can't see how OP's example can reasonably be seen as ironic shorthand for "[Because I'm honest and frank, and this book is rubbish, I'm afraid I can't recommend the book enough to be in apparent agreement with anyone who thinks it's actually good". Dec 29, 2012 at 17:22
  • @F: I agree with Barrie that in most contexts it would be a positive comment, but "I can't recommend it enough" can just as easily mean "I can't recommend that anyone else read it" (perhaps that means I'd give it 2 or even a 5 on a scale of 10, but I wouldn't read anything under a 7). jwpat7's answer seems to say it all, & my answer came an hour before I saw his. Some people think that euphemisms like "darn" are no different from the alleged profanity of "damn", but I don't.
    – user21497
    Dec 29, 2012 at 17:38
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It's much simpler than that.

It means that the person loves the book and would like everybody to read it. It's not ambiguous.

Hope it helps.

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  • This would be improved if you gave some explanation as to why you don't believe this is ambiguous (contrary to the other answers). Feb 18, 2021 at 10:28

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