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それほど面白くなかった。
It wasn't that interesting (given translation)

The given translation, without further context, just means "it wasn't very/particularly interesting". However, I understood それほど to reference something in context e.g. if I tell you I went rock climbing this weekend and then ask what you did, you might respond with それほど面白くなかった. So a better translation would be "It wasn't as interesting as that".

So, can それほど have both of these meanings or is the given translation a bit misleading? Can it be replaced with あまり面白くなかった?

5

The given translation seems perfect. That それ doesn't reference anything in particular, just like that that doesn't.

In most cases, それほど in a negative sentence should be understood as an adverbial expression as a whole whose function is to lessen a degree, just like そんなに. Replacing it with あまり would cause as little difference in nuance as replacing that with very.

それほど sounds slightly more formal than そんなに but not so much as さほど.

I wouldn't respond with それほど面白くなかった in your rock climbing scenario. It doesn't sound natural at all.

週末ロッククライミングしたよ。君は?
(*) それほど面白くなかった。

First of all, it doesn't answer the question, which asks what the second person did on the weekend. This problem has nothing to do with それほど. The problem with それほど is precisely that それ would not be understood as referencing rock climbing or how interesting it was.

The following conversation solves the first problem and that in turn somewhat lessens the degree of the second, but the meaning of the response is ambiguous and it still sounds unnatural.

週末ロッククライミングしたよ。君は?
それほど面白いことはしなかった。

The following is better although some ambiguity still remains. そんな面白いこと would most likely be understood as referring to rock climbing.

週末ロッククライミングしたよ。君は?
そんな面白いことはしなかった。

それほど in an affirmative sentence can be replaced with それぐらい. The referencing nature of それ is retained, but it usually refers to a degree that is mentioned or indicated earlier, rather than a concrete thing.

For example, それ in the second sentence below refers to what was stated in the first sentence: This book is so interesting that I have read it many times.

この本は何回も読んだ。この本はそれほど面白い。
I have read this book many times. It is so interesting.

If I want to reference something concrete with それ in a sentence that states its degree in some quality is similar to something else, I would more likely say それと同じぐらい as in the following example.

先月面白い本を読んだ。この本はそれと同じぐらい面白い。
I read an interesting book last month. This book is as interesting as that one.


[EDIT] Added examples at the end and rephrased the explanation about それと同じぐらい.

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  • Sorry my rock climbing example was terrible. I knew it wasn't natural but I'd hoped it would make my point, which I failed at. There's still one thing that isn't clear to me. Let me try another example. ゾウは強い。私はそれほど強くない。Are you saying that それ does not naturally reference ゾウ in this example either, and that それと同じぐらい would be better? If so, this opens up a whole new world of pain for me :-( – user3856370 May 8 at 8:44
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    ゾウは強い。私はそれほど強くない。is perfect. それと同じぐらい is NOT better in a negative sentence like that. It would be terrible. So don’t worry. However, それ in that sentence doesn’t refer to elephants. If it refers to anything, it is the degree to which elephants are strong. Maybe I didn’t put the last part right. I will edit it. – aguijonazo May 8 at 9:01

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