More often than not

“Sometimes, naturally, there would be strong disagreements, but more often than not, the atmosphere was dominated by a feeling of mutual respect.”–The Remains of the Day

How often is “more often than not”? Does it mean that “often” is relatively more appropriate than “not” in describing the frequency?

It means literally what it says (not always the case!). “More often than not” means that what is being described happens more often than it doesn’t happen. So in this sentence, the feelings of mutual respect were present more often than they were absent. There is an interesting linguistic point in the use of “but” in the sentence above. The first part of the sentence says that there were strong disagreements. It is possible, of course, for strong disagreements to take place within a framework of mutual respect. If that had been the case, it would not have been necessary for the rest of the sentence. However, the “but” which links the second part of the sentence to the first suggests that this was NOT the case. (Unless, of course, the moments when there was NOT mutual respect were unrelated to the strong disagreements! But this is the pedant in me!!)

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Note: often = frequently. Neither often nor frequently alone mean anything numeric. There meaning is relative. For example: “often/frequently” is more frequent than “seldom”

If there only TWO possibilities: (1) something happens, (2)something does NOT happen, then “more often than not” is anything over 50% of the time.

So if (1) happens “more often than not” it happens more than 50% of the time. However “more often than not” is no more specific than that.

(3) I often go to Avenida Chapultepec.
(4) More often than not, I go to Avenida Chapultepec.

For all intents and purposes I would use (3) and (4) interchangeably.

(5) I often go to La Borra del Cafe on Chapultepec.
(6) I often go to Cien Montaditos on Chapultepec

I do not, however frequent La Borra and Cien Montaditos equally. I go to both often but I do not go to both equally.

(7) When I am on Avenida Chapultepe, I often go to La Borra.
(8) When I am on Avenida Chapultepec, I often go to Cien Montaditos.
(9) In fact, when I am on Avenida Chapultepec, I go to La Borra more often than I go to Cien Montaditos.
(10) In fact, when I am on Avenida Chapultepec, I usually go to La Borra, not to Cien Montaditos.

Note: (9) and (10) are identical in meaning.

There are many venues on Avenida Chapultepec. The venue that I go to most often on Avenida Chapultepec is called La Borra del Cafe.

(11) When I am on Avenida Chapultepec you are more likely to find me at La Borra than at any other venue.
(12) When I am on Avenida Chapultepec, more often than not, I can be found at La Borra.
(13) When on Chapultepec, look for me at La Borra. I am there more often than not.
(14) When on Chapultepec, look for me at La Borra. I am usually/often there.

Note: The speaker can use usually and often interchageably for the same intended frequency or can use them differently for nuanced meaning. The language is that imprecise that it can be used differently by different speakers and even differently by the same speaker.

Note: (13) and (14) can be identical in meaning.

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it is simple really:more often than not = more often than not often

or: more likely than not = more likely than not likely, or more likely than unlikely

‘more than not’ can also stand by itself and means ‘moderately, reasonably, averagely, somewhat’: Is she beautiful? Well, yes, more than not! Or: is she a ‘10’? No, she is more of a ‘7’. :)))

Or are you hungry? Hmm, yes, more than not! = not ‘hungry hungry’/starving, but I could eat something.

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THat is what I consider as a very good explanation because it is quite short but full enough, with good examples and quite simple what is very important for the learners.

Hi Evgueny! Thanks for that! In my profession I often have to explain complicated subjects to the uninitiated!

Btw: I am currently working through your РУССКИЙ С НУЛЯ and like your clear pronunciation, although sometimes I have to switch to half speed! :))
(Sorry for hijacking the thread!)

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Danke, Katze! Frage, wenn du etwas nicht verstehst.

Mich auch! =))) Frag’ mal, wenn du 'was hicht verstanden hast! :wink:

“More often than not” is a pretty common phrase.

I think you have the idea behind the meaning right in noticing that it is a ratio between two actions where one action is happening more often than the other.

But keep in mind that in casual conversation the ratio that “more often than not” sets up could be a preference or exaggeration, and not meant to be literal. For instance, in talking about hobbies we often exaggeration.

More often than not, you’ll find me playing golf.

That probably isn’t a literal statement. It is probably a way to emphasize that the person enjoys golf, or would rather be golfing. Though it could be literal, people do tend to exaggerate.