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“The authors of the study, one of the most closely watched overviews of the global high-end retail market, predicted that such expansion would drive up growth across the global luxury market by as much as 8 percent.”

My question: what does "by as much as 8 percent" mean? Does it mean "by 8 percent" or "by up to 8 percent"?

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  • It means it may be that much (which by implication is a relatively high value in the given context). But if it's not exactly that much, the implication is that it will be somewhat less, not more. If in your context the speaker thought a value of, say, 9% was at least feasible, he'd have cited the higher value, since the whole point of the construction is to emphasise how high the value might be. Sep 7, 2018 at 14:22
  • The as much as X construction is more or less equivalent to up to X, but imho that second alternative has slightly stronger implications the it won't be higher than X. That's simply because the phrasing suggests a predefined limit that perhaps can't be exceeded for some unspecified reason, whereas in the first version the value of X is usually just "the highest value the speaker thinks could reasonably apply", but it's always possible his opinion on that could turn out to be conservative. Sep 7, 2018 at 14:28

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"by as much as X percent" is a way of discussing uncertainty. The author doesn't want to guarantee a particular number, and prefers to merely suggest that maybe this will be the value, and probably not more.

does it mean "by up to 8 percent"?

Yes. Very close. As noted in earlier comments "The as much as X construction is more or less equivalent to up to X, but imho that second alternative has slightly stronger implications the it won't be higher than X."

does it mean "by 8 percent"?

No. That would be stating an exact number.

Occasionally an advertisement will say "by as much as X percent, or even more!", which if carefully analyzed means they are saying absolutely nothing, and the number could be anything.

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