AEE 1171: If Anything? If Ever? How Natives Use These Helpful Chunks in English

Have you heard somebody say “if anything” in natural English conversations?

Have you ever heard “if ever” used in English?

These are the phrases that are so common, and yet you want to be sure that you understand how they work.

We’re going to look at these phrases, their differences, and how to use them in conversation so that you can connect naturally with native English speakers.

Today we have a listener question about using the phrase “if anything,” which as you will find, can be a helpful little chunk.

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Here is a question from a listener of All Ears English:

I have been a two year listener, and your podcast is part of my life. I can’t thank you lovely gals enough! Sweet kiss to the baby boy!

The other day while I listened to NPR , I heard the phrase “If anything, it’s quite the opposite..: Could you help me with this cute little expression “if anything”? Does “if ever” mean pretty much the same?

Can’t wait to see you in China!

Best wishes,

Lorena

How Does This Work?

So what does “if anything” mean?

There are many different uses, but we are going to stay focused on some basics.

Basically, a great way to use it is when you are saying something that is the opposite of what is expected.

It’s to show a bit of an extreme and it can really help to convey that something is far different than you might expect.

An example might be for you to say something like “I’m not tired, if anything I actually have a little too much energy.”

It’s as if to show that you are defying the example that you are given or trying to show a sharp contrast.

Different Uses For This

This is the umbrella definition, but this can be helpful for many reasons.

So while you might use “if anything” often, there are other ways to use this too.

Two possible ways to use this include:

  1. Expressing an opinion: You almost use this to show a contrast, often between negative and positive. It may not necessarily be obvious at first or a sharp contrast, but it can be. “She’s not rude. If anything, she tries way too hard to be nice.” The first part here is of course a bit negative in nature.
  2. Being a little less direct: This may be if you are somewhat unsure and therefore want to show that uncertainty. You might think something but you aren’t 100% sure of it. “She’s tired, so we should probably just go on a short walk today, if anything.”

There’s also a slightly different use for this which can be utilized.

You might use it to say “if at all” I’m not very hungry.

“I’ll just have a small breakfast, if anything. I’m having a full brunch later.”

These phrases can show that contrast, significant or not.

One More Example

We’ve looked at the others, but let’s look at “if ever” from the example from the listener–it has a part here too.

You might use this to say that something is unlikely to happen, because it fits perfectly there.

You could also say “if at all” and it works just as well here.

  • “I hardly go to the gym, if ever.”
  • “I try to only eat red meat once a month, if ever.”

What do these phrases have in common?

They are great tag ones to express yourself more precisely but politely as well.

They are short little chunks that really add a lot to what you want to say, and they do so in a really effective manner without coming off the wrong way.

Takeaway

This listener really found some nuanced English, and this helped us to provide a great example.

Tiny little phrases like these can be extremely useful in expressing yourself in English more precisely.

These phrases are all slightly different but have their own special and unique uses.

The best way to learn them is to practice using them–and these all help with making great connections.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.