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a. He aspires to little higher praise than being called a good writer.

a1. He doesn't aspires to much higher praise than being called a good writer.

(Being called a good writer is basically enough for him and he doesn't need much higher praise.)


b. He is as good as his father, and there's little higher praise than that.

b1. He is as good as his father, and there isn't much higher praise than that.

(He's as good as his father, and there is not a lot of higher praise than that.)

Are the sentences grammatically correct and do they correspond the the meaning sentences in each case?

In the first two sentences 'little' and 'not much' modify 'higher', but in the second two sentences they modify the noun phrase 'higher praise' and are about the amount of higher praise possible.

Maybe in the first two, one could use 'praise little higher than'...

Many thanks.

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    Perfect sentences and analysis, except for perhaps a typo "*a1. He doesn't aspire to..." (not "aspires")
    – gotube
    Jul 3, 2021 at 5:42
  • 1
    A more common expression would be "...aspires to no higher praise than...". Are you trying to express that his is looking for something beyond being called a good writer? Jul 3, 2021 at 6:43
  • Thank you both so much. No, I am trying to say that being called a good writer is basically enough for him,
    – azz
    Jul 3, 2021 at 9:42

1 Answer 1

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Yes, both sentences are grammatically correct - and more importantly, easily understandable for most fluent speakers.

In (a), "he aspires to little higher praise than [...]", the way that the "higher praise" inverts the noun and adjective positions makes it very clear that the sentence uses the negative phrasing "he does not aspire to higher praise than".

In (b), "there's little higher praise than", the same is true. The inversion within the predicate (normally: "there is praise a little higher than") causes its meaning to shift towards "that is one of the highest praises".

In both cases, "little" is acting to negate the sentence, since it is synonymous with "almost none".

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