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Any semantic difference between the two following sentences?

See if there isn't any room for improvement.

See if there is any room for improvement.

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Native speaker - I think these are basically equivalent. In both cases, the imperative is to check whether room for improvement exists, so the activity is the same.

There's a slight difference of tone. I would normally use "see if there isn't" in cases where I think there is room for improvement but I'm speaking to someone who disagrees; the implication is that I want them to conduct a more thorough search. But "see if there is" is also correct in that case.

I think you're good either way.

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  • I'd personally read "See if there isn't any room for improvement" as "I don't expect there to be any room for improvement, but check just in case". (non-native speaker here, so take it with a grain of salt) Feb 13, 2018 at 19:24
  • @MaciejStachowski -- interesting, your implication is the opposite of mine. :) No grains of salt necessary, I'm sure this is just idiosyncratic. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks of the difference this way!
    – Matt Cline
    Feb 13, 2018 at 19:30
  • I'm not sure I hear much difference in meaning, but the first one sounds more British and the second more American to me. Feb 13, 2018 at 21:00
  • @MaciejStachowski Thanks for the input. The sentence with a negative was actually from something a mod wrote on this site to suggest "There should be room for improvement, so don't blame other people." I think it may depend on the context and dialect, as Canadian Yankee suggests.
    – Eddie Kal
    Feb 14, 2018 at 0:49

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