Phrase of the day: It’s not as though

I had two conversations last night which featured this chunk. The first one was with a friend who was moaning about a culture clash in the Paris office he often visits. Leaving his house at 5.30 in the morning to arrive in Paris at 10, he often finds the office still half empty. Then when asked to do some extra work, his Parisian colleagues start moaning about long work hours and stress. As a result, my friend produced this sentence:

It’s not as though they don’t have plenty of holiday.

Later on, I was talking about my friend (who works for an IT company) and mentioned that he was planning on retiring at 50. This produced a slight rant from my listener about the iniquity of pay in our society:

It’s not as though they’re doing anything that important. It’s only bloody mobile phones, rather than helping people.

I should say I’m simply reporting the language here rather than agreeing with any view expressed! Which is one reason we probably don’t see this chunk taught very often as moaning and ranting about things is frowned upon in many courses. In addition, it’s also quite a tricky chunk. Firstly, it can produce a double negative which may confuse students (do Parisians get plenty of holidays or not) and, secondly, it’s quite difficult to set up a practice for. That’s because it’s dependent on the argument that went before it. I think sometimes we just have to accept that ‘free’ practice isn’t possible with every single item of language and something which is contrived or simply awareness-raising is sometimes all we can do. In this case, I can only think of the two options below – though I welcome any other suggestions! Even then, it’s maybe difficult to write something that works because, while the argument might be obvious to me, it might not be to others. See if these work.


1) Write what was said before each sentence.

It’s not as though I’ve got nothing better to do!

It’s not as though they’re poor.

It’s not as though I was shouting or anything.

It’s not as though they were that busy.

2) Complete each sentence.

I don’t understand why he couldn’t do it. It’s not as though

I can’t believe they didn’t even give you an interview. It’s not as though

They should be doing a lot better. It’s not as though

He had a real go at me for being late. It was so over-the-top. It wasn’t as though

In either case, you could get students to read out their sentences (with suitable outraged intonation!) and their partners could try and sympathise or offer an alternative viewpoint. Finally, note that It’s not as if and It’s not like are both perfectly acceptable alternatives.

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