“I can’t remember the title of the book we were supposed to read, let alone the details of the story.” In sentences like these you give a lesser example of something first, followed by “let alone” and then the greater example. But people often get this backwards, and put the greater example first.
The same pattern is followed when the expression is “much less”: “I can’t change the oil in my car, much less tune the engine.” The speaker can much less well tune the engine than he or she can change the oil.
Another common expression which follows the same pattern uses “never mind,” as in “I can’t afford to build a tool shed, never mind a new house.”
Paul Brians' alter-ego makes an appearance on the latest Common Errors in English Usage podcast.
This is the tenth year of the Common Errors in English Usage calendar. To celebrate, we are bringing back some of our favorite interesting, funny, but sometimes merely silly entries through the years before going on hiatus in 2016.
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