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They can't even play, ____ writing their own songs.

a. less likely

b. not to mention

c. let alone

d. needless to say


I am familiar with these expressions but not to the extent to tell the differences.I don't know what the sentence implies differently if I chose one to another.When I scanned some grammar resources again I found that let alone is mostly used in negative sense and it seems like when let alone is used whole sentence focus to the same person and related process.This is my humble interpretation.

For example (Longman)

The baby can't even sit up yet, let alone walk.

But lets say we visited a city for the first time and the city didn't live up to our expectations , would it be more accurate to say :

The food is terrible , not to mention its the crowded streets.

Because we mention two different aspects of the city or our experience.

So I'd like to ask what the sentence imply for each option if it makes sense to use all.

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  • "The food is terrible , not to mention (no "its") the crowded streets." does not make sense, because it is trying to compare food and streets
    – user3169
    Mar 19, 2016 at 18:19
  • @user3169 How do you rewrite the sentence then? The food in the city is terrible , not to mention its crowded streets" ? I mean both are terrible.
    – Mrt
    Mar 19, 2016 at 18:26
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    Put the focus on "city". "The city has terrible food, not to mention crowded streets." The subject of each phrase needs to be the same. Same as saying "The city has terrible food, and the city has crowded streets."
    – user3169
    Mar 19, 2016 at 18:29
  • @user3169 OK.I tried to do that :) So how about what if we replace "not to mention" with "let alone" in your sentence this time , do you think it makes sense?
    – Mrt
    Mar 19, 2016 at 18:33
  • No. Your first phrase is not negative (terrible is just a modifier of food).
    – user3169
    Mar 19, 2016 at 19:16

1 Answer 1

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They can't even play, not to mention writing their own songs.

b. is correct.

a. less likely

The form of this should be "less likely than/that" (than/that as conjunctions) since you are making a comparison.

It is less likely that I will go to the party because she will be there.
Winning the lottery is less likely than getting a tax refund.

The example does not have a conjuction to use, so a. is incorrect.

c. let alone

Here you would use the same verb form in the connected phrases, so for c. to be correct, the example would have to be:

They can't even play, let alone write their own songs.

and

d. needless to say

is usually not used in connecting phrases. An example:

Needless to say, this is a good question.

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