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.


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.

  • 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 '18 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 '18 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 '18 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 '18 at 0:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.