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Even now, the world’s leading carmakers are spending billions on setting up plants, vehicle prices are dropping precipitously, and the car has become the object of the new consumer’s dreams.

It is a similar story throughout the developing world. For the first time, more than one million new cars were sold in India last year, and the automobile industry there is growing at a rate of about 20% a year. The car fleets of Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Nigeria are growing at similar rates.

But compared to the West, these numbers are as nothing. Private car ownership in the US is about 745 vehicles per 1,000 people, with slightly lower rates in Europe. There may be one car for every 2.4 British people, but only eight Indians and Chinese in 1,000 so far have a car.

How do you determine the applicable definition of as to deduce the meaning of 'as nothing'? I'm guessing that 'as nothing differs' from just 'nothing'? Please explain the steps or thought processes; I’d like to try to resolve this myself in the future?

  • The numbers are like nothing. Yes, that is different from the numbers are nothing. If I tell someone "you are like a peach" it is not the same as "you are a peach". As for the thought process, applying the most common meaning of as = like and figuring out the sentence makes sense seems pretty straightforward... Sometimes it pays off not to think too deeply about a sentence — most of them were written to convey a meaning in an accessible, easy-to-understand way, because usually writers do not really try to hide their message. – oerkelens Oct 7 '14 at 7:07
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    I don't think "entirely answerable by a dictionary" is appropriate here. The OP has clearly already checked a dictionary and is still confused. – snailboat Oct 7 '14 at 22:35
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The Preposition definition from Oxford pretty much covers it - 'Used to refer to the function or character that someone or something has'.

Here, the article is saying that the numbers have the character of nothing, they are insignificant in comparison to Western car ownership rates.

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"as nothing" is an archaism. The author of the piece has apparently read the King James Bible.

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