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I believe a saw an entry in one of the dictionaries addressing this issue but I just cannot find it now. Can "by far" be used in negative sentences, for example:

He isn't by far the smartest person in that group.

Is that correct? I would like to express that he is not the smartest person in that group - not by a long shot, but I would like to use "by far". Is that possible?

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The usage of 'by far' in negative sentences is correct, but the following word orders should be better. You have acutally placed 'by far' between 'not' and 'the smartest'. Thus, you seem to negate 'by far'. Therefore:

He is by far not the smartest person in that group.
By far he isn't the smartest person in that group.
He isn't the smartest person in that group(,) by far.

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