Son: I sure wouldn't do math unless I had to.

Father: You got my genes in the math department. If not for your mom, I'd still be taking algebra.

What is the meaning of "If not for your mom"?

1 Answer 1


The phrase "if not for X" means that X is the reason things did not come to pass. For instance, you might say "It was a dark night. If not for the moon, there would be no light at all." In this case, we know that there was some light (from the moon) but that was the only source of light.

Based on that, we know that the reason why the Father is not still taking algebra is the Son's mom.

This is somewhat of a joke - although the father is presumably many years past the age where he would have been taking algebra in school, he is suggesting that he was so unskilled he would have been forced to repeat the class indefinitely.

The other implication is that since the Father and Son both share a dislike of mathematics, it was passed on from Father to Son through genetic predisposition (genes). However, the Son's mom (mother) did not suffer from the same lack of skill, and if the Son had gotten her mathematically advantaged genes he might be more skilled.

As evidence of the mother's skill, the Father credits her with helping him to pass algebra, despite his astonishing lack of talent.

So, in other words, "I would still be failing basic mathematics, but your mother took pity on me and saved me from a lifetime of failure."

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