They do not relate to the present any more than they relate to the person.

I came across this sentence from the book The Fire Next Time and just couldn’t understand it. Than would indicate some sort of comparison, but it's not a construction I've come across before.

How do I interpret “they do not X any more than they Y”?

  • 1
    The expression is a basically a different way of saying "and (equally)". For example: I don't like beer any more than I like wine means I don't like beer and I don't like wine (I dislike them both equally).
    – Shoe
    Feb 21 at 11:39
  • What @Shoe said. But note that to some extent this usage is an "idiom". The literal meaning of the words simply asserts that the extent of (negated) attribute / activity X is not greater than that of Y. Which in principle allows for X to be less than Y, and it doesn't explicitly say anything about the absolute level of either X or Y. But the idiomatic use of “not X any more than Y” always implies that both are uncommon / untrue. In practice, the second attribute (Y) is often something which all parties to the conversation know is false/rare. Feb 21 at 12:17
  • The actual X an Y would make this easier to explain.
    – Jontia
    Apr 7 at 16:01
  • 2

I've heard this expression a lot. It means:

X isn't better than Y (to put in simple terms) the two are good for nothing.


Let say X is a idiot and Y's a ugly person

"not that idiot more than ugly" I'd prefer none.

Here is where things get tricky most times it used to compare bad but few very time its used to compare good. Depending on the story, try discerning which one to use.


It could be that the sentence is describing two different things that a group of people do not do. This could be to show positives and negatives or to emphasise a single draw back.

So a group of monks who had taken a vow of silence could be described;

They do not tell jokes any more than they scream at each other.

Or a you could describe (toolless) human being as;

They do not fly any more than they can breathe underwater.

Or an aeroplane broken in half;

It will not fly any more than it will keep the cold out.

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