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What do people mean when they say:

"I don't think it was that bad."

Does this phrase have only one possible correct meaning or use? Does it require further context to be provided in order to understand it?

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On its own

I don't think it was that bad.

is a generally unenthusiastic comment on something, such as

  • It was not very good.
  • I almost liked it.
  • It was reasonable.

However, if someone has just made a remark, then the phrase is a reply in context:

I thought the food was disgusting.
It wasn't that bad.

meaning, "I don't think it was as bad as you are saying."

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