3

While I was watching something, I heard this

The city is as far west as one can go.

My guess is that the city is very far. I'm not sure I heard it right, or it was

The city is as far west as no one can go.

Which one is correct?

  • You should've written heard :) – user178049 Jan 29 '17 at 14:32
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This one is a sort of 'impersonal' personal pronoun, one which does not have a particular referent as ordinary personal pronouns do but stands for "any person, anybody".

It's rather formal and not often used in speech, where we usually use 'impersonal' you, which similarly does not mean "you whom I am addressing" but any person:

The city is as far west as one can go.

1

The idiomatic usage is:

[The city is] as far west as one can go.

It implies that one can go that far west, but no further.

Other examples where the "as ... as" construction is used to express the maximum possible extent or degree of something include e.g.:

This is as good as it gets. (It cannot get better than this.)
He did it as well as he could. (He could not have done it better.)
I will do it as soon as I can. (I cannot do it any sooner than that.)

This usage is similar to (and presumably derived from) the more common use of "as ... as" to indicate that two things are equal in some respect, as in:

I am as smart as you are. (We are both equally smart.)
Alice did as well as Jenny in the exam. (Both Alice and Jenny did equally well.)
Gold is as heavy as lead. (Gold and lead are equally heavy.)
He is as strong as a bear. (His strength is, at least figuratively, equal to the strength of a bear.)

However, when the thing that something is compared to (i.e. the phrase after the second "as") is a verbal phrase describing ability (like "...as it gets", "...as he could", "...as one can go", etc.), then such a comparison is idiomatically interpreted as meaning that the relevant property (i.e. what's between the two "as" words, like "far west" or "good" or "soon") of the thing or action being compared (i.e. whatever comes before the first "as") is the maximum possible that still satisfies the phrase that it is being compared to. So, for example, your example sentence:

The city is as far west as one can go.

means that:

  1. the city is far west, and
  2. one can go to the city, but
  3. one cannot go any further west than where the city is.

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