What does "if not" mean in the given sentence

Lots of examples are shown in the above Q&A. But most usages of "if not" seem to involve adjectives. My question is, can we use "if not" to mean something like

We will at least circumvent the problem, even when we cannot fix it.

Here two verbs are put into contrast.

  • I'm not clear on exactly what you're asking. Can you use "if not" in a sentence in the way that you're asking about?
    – stangdon
    Jan 13, 2016 at 13:22
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    @stangdon "By doing XYZ, we will circumvent the problem, if not fix it." Is this correct English?
    – nodakai
    Jan 13, 2016 at 13:35
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    Please edit your question to include all the information needed to answer it.
    – The Photon
    Jan 13, 2016 at 15:49
  • @ThePhoton what sort of information do you need? I made a question to be answered by either of yes or no.
    – nodakai
    Jan 13, 2016 at 16:37
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    @nodakai, What stangdon asked for. Don't just reply in comments, edit your question to include the additional information.
    – The Photon
    Jan 13, 2016 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


"at least" and "if not",, used together, is used for talking about an outcome that may not be totally possible but some outcome that comes close in some way will probably happen.

This will at least bypass the problem, if not fix it.

The organization's efforts at least will save some refugees, if not all of them.

  • Thanks, so we can use "if not" with verbs and nouns as well, that's what you mean. Can we use it in the S part of an SVO sentence? Like "coal, if not gold, will be mined from this mountain."
    – nodakai
    Jan 13, 2016 at 16:53

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