What is the exact meaning of, "for that matter," in the sentence:

He did not speak to her, or anyone for that matter?

  • It's simple! For that matter does mean the matter that's discussed/mentioned in the same context/case/sentence! Why is it confusing?
    – Maulik V
    Nov 25 '13 at 8:59
  • 1
    It's a way of emphasizing one thing, and providing further details as an extra clarification. In your example, the writer's main point is that he did not speak to her, but the writer also wanted to add some extra details: that he didn't speak to anyone else, either. The "for that matter" could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.
    – J.R.
    Nov 25 '13 at 13:34
  • 2
    @J.R. It could be omitted without changing the meaning in the same sense that other clarifying phrases could be omitted, like "on the other hand" or "under normal conditions" or "of course". A reader may understand what you meant without it, but it can help to make your meaning apparent.
    – Jay
    Nov 25 '13 at 16:03
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    @Jay - Absolutely. One of the skills needed for effective writing is the ability to recognize when such statements are crucial components of a sentence, and when they are mere "fluff" that serve no purpose and should therefore be edited out.
    – J.R.
    Nov 25 '13 at 16:09

It's an idiom you append to denote your generalization includes the prior case - something you use instead of "either"/"too", when the group of the other part of the sentence swallows the first one instead of supplementing it.

He didn't eat the cucumbers, or any food at all for that matter.

There are no teen male latinos in the sample group. There are no males in it at all, for that matter.

Yes, the hiking group has a first aid kit. It even has a fully supplied military field medic backpack, with a full field surgery kit, for that matter.

I didn't complain about the food. I have nothing but praise for the staff for their service, for that matter.

If we were to expand the idiom into a full sentence, it would be something like this:

He did not speak to her. And if we're talking about the matter of him speaking: he did not speak to anyone at all.

  • 3
    Another way to word these (and this might help assist the O.P. understand the expression even further) is to use in fact. For example, some of your sentences could be rewritten as: He didn't eat the cucumbers. In fact, he didn't eat any food at all. Or: The hiking group has a first aid kit; in fact, it even has a fully supplied backpack with a field surgery kit.
    – J.R.
    Nov 25 '13 at 13:29
  • Can I think of it as since we're at it?
    – NS.X.
    Nov 26 '13 at 20:59
  • @NS X: Yes, that would be the literal meaning, but traditionally it got the functional role of "extender" similar to "too" or "as well" - you may encounter it used in role of "since we're at it", "and a'propos" or the likes, but relatively infrequently.
    – SF.
    Nov 26 '13 at 22:57
  • Another question, does it always come after the second expression? Can I say 'He did not speak to her. For that matter, he did not speak to anyone.'?
    – NS.X.
    Nov 27 '13 at 1:22
  • @NS.X.Both are fine (just note you did have to split it into two short sentences - where one longer sentence would be somewhat better stylistically.)
    – SF.
    Nov 27 '13 at 6:20

I was writing this as a comment and then realized that it might be a bit too long, so I will put it here as an answer even if I'm not 100% sure (it's more like about 98% sure).

I believe that the verb "speak" might cause the OP's confusion. Is it the act that he did "speak to someone" the matter? or is it the matter that he might speak to someone?

Perhaps it might be helpful to imagine the speaker says it like this:

He did not speak to her... or anyone for that matter.

which roughly means that "He did not speak to her", and then the speaker added "or anyone" where "for that matter" suggests that "he did not speak to anyone at all" (not just her alone).

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