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What is the meaning of "There is nothing so bad that it couldn't be worse" ?

Does it mean "The situation is not so bad. therefore, the situation couldn't be worse" or "The situation is so bad. therefore, the situation could be worse"?

For example,

A: I have no money.

B: The situation where you do not have money is not a bad situation. Therefore, it will not get worse. You have no debts!

Does "The situation where you do not have money is not a bad situation. Therefore, it will not get worse. You have no debts!" mean "There is nothing so bad that it couldn't be worse" ?

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Consider the pattern so {adjective} that ... {something is impossible}

The tea was so hot that it could not be drunk.

The hedge was so tall that it could not be jumped.

The candy was so hard that it could not be chewed.

It is impossible to do these things because the tea is so hot, the hedge is so tall, and the candy is so hard. The degree of heat, height, and hardness reaches or exceeds a threshold so that those actions are impossible.

Now consider the pattern not so {adjective} that ... {something is impossible}

The tea was not so hot that it could not be drunk.

The hedge was not so tall that it could not be jumped.

The candy was not so hard that it could not be chewed.

It is NOT impossible to do these things, even though the tea was hot, the hedge was tall, and the candy was hard; the tea was still drinkable; the hedge was still jumpable, and the candy was still chewable, because their degree of heat, height, and hardness was not so great that those things were impossible.

  • If so, Does "The tea was not so hot that it could not be drunk" mean "Not the tea was so hot that it could not be drunk"(===>even though the tea was hot, tea could be drunk)? If so, Does "There is nothing so bad that it couldn't be worse" mean "Not there is so bad that it couldn't be worse" (=====> ?even though there is bad, it could be worse ) ? What does "nothing so bad" mean? Does "nothing so bad" mean "not so bad" or " so nothing bad" or "nothing bad"? – user22046 Mar 10 '18 at 23:45
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    "There is nothing so bad" can be paraphrased "There is nothing that is so bad....". Everything can get worse than it is. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 11 '18 at 12:30
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It means neither. This phrase is often shortened to "it could be worse"...meaning if you lose your job, your spouse, and your house on the same day it could always be worse - you could die. It's about changing your thinking after bad things happen and making your thoughts more positive.

  • Does “There is nothing so bad that it couldn't be worse” mean If no more bad things happen, the situation will no longer be worse. So, does it mean that We should think things positively? (does "there is nothing so bad" mean "if no more bad things happen"? does "that it couldn't be worse” mean "so then, things perhaps couldn't be worse"? ) – user22046 Mar 10 '18 at 3:32
  • It's just a way to tell people to think positively. However bad your day was, you can imagine some way that the day might have been worse, so your actual day was better than that hypothetically bad day you could have had. Essentially the phrase means "this isn't the worst thing possible". – PMV Mar 10 '18 at 4:02
  • I think the confusion is with "so." In this case it's being used as an intensifier like "very," not as a conjunction. As in, "My day was so bad! It was the worst day ever!" – Doarn Mar 10 '18 at 6:34
  • @user22046 There may be some confusion over closely sounding terms. Worst is the most terrible situation. Worse is a comparison term - one thing is not as good as another. They way you are using it in your comment sounds more like worst than worse. If more bad things happen your situation will get worse. However, if things can get worse, it means that you have not reached "the worst" that could happen to you. – Stacy Mar 11 '18 at 2:52
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The saying, "there is no problem so bad you can't make it worse," actually means that as bad as things may seem, if you act foolishly in response you could still make things worse. It is a saying frequently used around NASA to drill in the importance of calmly thinking through a problem instead of just taking wild guesses as to potential solutions.

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