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"I hate wizards. If he so much as points a finger at me, you stick him, Hook."

"Remind me to find out the name of that flooring company so I can be sure never to buy so much as a carpet tile from it."

"I didn’t listen so much as survive the conversation."

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  • What research have you done? I've posted an answer dealing with your first example. Can you determine the function and meaning of "so much as" in your other two examples?
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:20
  • @BillJ I got the first sentence from TV show Cursed. I searched "so much as" on line and found there are actually two defintions, but Lexico and Cambridge Dictionary each have their own definition. [lexico]lexico.com/definition/so_much_as [cambridge]dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/so-much-as
    – Den Allan
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:39

4 Answers 4

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"If he/she does so much as [x]" at the beginning of a conditional statement means that [x] is the minimum condition to trigger the consequence.

In your specific example "pointing a finger" would result in the threatened action.

Usually, this idiom uses a deliberately understated condition. A common example is "if he so much as looks at me" when someone doesn't want any contact from a person, or "if you so much as breathe" when demanding that someone be silent. In real-life usage, this is just hypobole, and those actions would probably not be punished.

In your example, "pointing a finger" is a pretty innocuous gesture, but as the person referred to is a wizard this could be a gesture connected with casting a spell, so perhaps not an example of hypobole.

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  • Far too complicated. I suspect the OP wanted something simple. In any case, you haven't answered the OP's question about the grammatical function of "so much as".
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:58
  • @BillJ "so much as" have a different meaning in the third sentence and it is more like a conjunction rather than degree adjunct if I am not wrong.
    – Den Allan
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 11:11
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I hate wizards. If he so much as points a finger at me, you stick him, Hook.

The grammatical function of the idiom "so much as" is degree adjunct.

The meaning is similar to "even" or "does no more than", and emphasises to Hook that he is to stick him for even the slightest misdemeanour.

Note that idioms like "so much as" can have different meanings depending on context. Generally, they can only be roughly interpreted.

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  • Why does Cambridge Dictionary define it as "but rather" only? dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/so-much-as
    – Den Allan
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:31
  • This is incorrect - it doesn't mean "do no more than", it means the opposite - "does as little as".
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:36
  • @Astralbee "even" doesn't have the negative sense; "so much as" is used with negative. lexico.com/definition/so_much_as
    – Den Allan
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:43
  • @Astralbee Idioms can only be roughly interpreted, and "so much as" can have different interpretations depending on context. Note that I also said "even", which is a perfectly reasonable alternant to "so much as".
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:48
  • @BillJ Again, not true Bill - idioms have an established meaning through usage. That's what makes them an idiom. Are you perhaps thinking of metaphors?
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 10:51
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Regarding the third sentence, which I think is quite different from the first two: "so much as" can be interchangeable with "as much as."

The sentence might make more sense if we modify it slightly:

I wasn't listening as much as I was surviving [through] the conversation.

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The usage in the third sentence doesn’t seem to have been adequately explained in previous answers.

In this case, separating “So much as” is a red herring. The full idiom is “not so much A as B,”, meaning it’s rather B than A. But the form of this expression is quite flexible in that “not” can be absorbed into a contraction, such as “I didn’t” and “so much as” does not have to immediately follow “not”.

Refer to the example sentence in the Cambridge Dictionary web page:

I don’t feel angry so much as sad.

You can see the structure is the same as the third sentence in your post, but now it’s clear that this is a variation of not so much A as B.

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