In recent days,I found myself not knowing the word"not" at all,and this really makes many misunderstanding for me. Therefore, there are two questions about "not".

Emma:You must be happy that you didn't fail your important exam yesterday.

Anna: Absolutely……not. The fact is that I'm "very happy" not just "happy".

One of the most common definition of "not" in my dictionary is "used in order to make a word or expression have tge opposite meaning".

Thus,one question is "Can I use the word "not" like the sentence Anna says?". In other words, can I use the word "not" to emphasize the difference of the degree rather than the opposite meaning?

The another is ,Why does "not a bit" mean "little" and "not a little" mean "much"? Are they idioms?

After all,"a little" and "a bit" are the similar phrase to mean "some".

  • "Not a little" and "not even a little" have opposite meanings, while "not a bit" and "not even a bit" have the same meaning. This must be not a little confusing. Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 1:48
  • @PeterShor thanks for your help first. What confused me is "a bit" has the almost same meaning as "a little" while "not a bit" has the opposite meaning of "not a little". In my mimd,they all just are added by "not" alon. So,after added by "not",they may have the similar meaning in the condition they have almost similar meaning without "not".
    – Chang yo
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 4:37

1 Answer 1


In your first example, not is being used to indicate the falsehood of a simple statement:

No, I'm not happy. I'm very happy.

Or, in a similar context:

"No, I don't like it. I love it.

Such negations are commonly made in order to make a point. They don't need to actually indicate an opposite.

It's the same thing as saying not exactly.

Also, not a bit and not a little do mean the same thing.

Based on context, both can mean none at all or a lot.


Q: "Do you like it?"
A1: "Not even a bit."
A2: "Not even a little."

In both answers, the words indicate that you don't like it at all—that there is nothing about it you like.


Q1: "You must be a bit happy."
A1: "Not just a bit, a lot.

Q2: "You must be a little happy."
A2: "Not just a little, a lot."

In both of these conversations, the words are expressing the opposite of a small amount—that you are a great deal happy.

Of course, the two words are often used in combination for emphasis.

But, again, context determines if they indicate nothing or a lot:

Not even a little bit.

This means nothing.

No just a little bit.

This means a lot.

  • Thanks for your comprehensive answer. Thus,when the author just uses "not a little" or"not a bit" and doesn't add any adverb between "not" and "a little"/"a bit",the readers should depend on the contexts to guess what author want to show, right? BTW,does my sentence"Why does "not a bit" mean "little" and "not a little" mean "much"? " have any error?
    – Chang yo
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 13:16
  • @Changyo That's right. As far as I can tell, in your sentences, not a bit and not a little mean the same thing. But it's difficult to say because they are provided without context. Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 14:10
  • Okay,I completely know what you mean. Tanks a lot.^
    – Chang yo
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 14:23

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