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I have found the following in a grammar book, but would you please show me more simply- perhaps by a vivid example or more clear explanation- what as much as mean? is this a comparison and contrast case here?

Prices have increased by as much as 300 per cent.

We also use as much as to say that a quantity or amount is larger than expected.

In addition, is there any phrase or word that we could substitute for the bold part which mean exactly the same meaning??

There are a small number of people involved, possibly as few as twenty.

Thanks

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If you were to say:

The meeting was attended by 6 people

You would be stating how many people came to the meeting.

However, if you were to say:

The meeting was attended by as few as 6 people

This could show that less people showed up than expected, or it puts emphasis on the fact that very few people actually turned up.

Also, with regards to your second point, these mean exactly the same thing:

as many as (the same as 'as much as')

as little as (the same as 'as few as')

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