When Does “Plus ou Moins” Mean Less, Not More?

Syllabus Montreal TranslationWhen I’m on a roll with a translation and I spot the French phrase “plus ou moins,” my fingers automatically type “more or less,” while my brain jumps ahead to the next part of the sentence. And often, that’s okay. But not always.

I recently came across the following situation, where “plus ou moins” certainly did not translate as “more or less.”

French: On recommande option no. 1 pour une clientèle ayant un budget ou un horaire flexible et option no. 2 pour une clientèle ayant un budget et un horaire plus ou moins flexible.

English: We recommend option 1 for clients with a flexible budget and schedule and option 2 for clients with a less flexible budget and schedule.

In his article “It Means the Same, More or Less,” Fraçois Lavallée breaks down the three definitions of “plus ou moins.” According to his system, “plus our moins” means “rather less than more, “barely,” or “not very” in this particular situation.

Once again, context is everything and the meaning of the surrounding text should tip you off to the fact that sometimes “plus ou moins” means less, not more.

What other ways can you translate this tricky term?

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