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The way I see it, the English adverbial "at least" has two interpretations:

  1. Used with numbers to express a minimum:

    The temperature has to reach at least 98° before we'll turn on the air-conditioning.

    At least three people have told me the same thing.

  2. Used to express situations one is thankful for in contrast to the alternative; "you can be glad that..."; thank God:

    At least your children aren't in jail. (=like mine are)

    The elevator's broken, so we have to take the stairs. At least it's only four floors. (=and not twenty!)

Does Russian по крайней мере also cover the second usage, or just the first?

Anything else I should know about it?

2
  • At least three people... По крайнер мере, три человека...
    – Artereon
    Jun 24 '14 at 5:45
  • In case with elevator you can use "к счастью". К счастью, всего лишь четыре этажа".
    – user4290
    Sep 9 '14 at 15:08
2

Your second example for the second meaning does not seem to be very idiomatic, at least not in American English. "The elevator's broken, so we have to take the stairs. Thankfully it's only four floors. (=and not twenty!)" would sound more appropriate.

As for the Russian equivalent, most people will say: "Лифт не работает придётся идти по лестнице. Хорошо что только четыре зтажа." Note that "по крайней мере", while will be understood, is not very idiomatic in this context.

1
  • "at least" in the sense of "thankfully, thank God, etc." is quite idiomatic in English. Just this morning on a show, a lady said: "Oh God, here comes Amy!" and the other woman said "At least it's Amy and not her sister!" PS: I'm American. Thanks for your help. I like that хорошо что - it seems perfect.
    – CocoPop
    Aug 11 '14 at 14:13
5

First usage = "как минимум"

Second usage = "по крайней мере"

0
1

Not only "по крайней мере" is widely used in the second sense, but it seems that it is used mostly in the second sense. Examples from various websites:

Владимир Познер: «По крайней мере, я это попробовал…» (an interview title) «Мы, по крайней мере, попытались». Нобелевский лауреат Роджер Корнберг о работе в Сколково. (an interview title) “Могло быть и лучше, но по крайней мере чисто и недорого” (a hotel review title). По крайней мере, селедки хватит на всех. (an interview title)

"По крайней мере" is also widely used in the first sense.

There are also other ways to translate at least in the first sense - по меньшей мере, как минимум, хотя бы (it has some special meanings, so should not be used in most cases)

3
  • Thank you! Great answer. The reason I asked this question originally was because I wrote a Russian entry here: lang-8.com/579537/journals/… and used по крайней мере as we would in English, meaning thank God. However almost everyone changed it or didn't like it. What do you think? (You have to scroll down to see comments and corrections)
    – CocoPop
    Sep 11 '14 at 15:57
  • Here "по крайней мере" is wrong.
    – user31264
    Sep 11 '14 at 16:22
  • Which brings me back to my original question :))) You stated in your response, that "Not only "по крайней мере" is widely used in the second sense, but it seems that it is used mostly in the second sense" - Well, I was using it to mean "thank God there are only four floors," so either I'm missing something or your answer isn't accurate :)
    – CocoPop
    Sep 11 '14 at 16:27

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