Skip to main content

S1 Have you been in Paris much these late years?
S2 I am sure you are tired, if you've been out much this wet relaxing day.
S3 Come to think, I HAVEN'T seen her out much this season.

Is "much" semantically related to the preceding adverbial ("in Paris"; "out") or to the following time expression ("these late years"; "this wet relaxing day"; "this season")?

Last edited {1}
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Much in Sentences 1 and 3 is an adverb meaning "[very] often." It modifies the preceding verb phrase. In S1 the verb phrase is "have...been in Paris"; in S3 it is "haven't seen her out."

Much does not modify the time expressions that follow it. The phrases "these late years" and "this season" are adverbial adjuncts to the verb phrase and are unnecessary to the clause: one could say

1a) Have you been in Paris much?

3a) Come to think of it, I haven't seen her much

Strangely, none of my grammar references gives the meaning "often" for this usage of much. The Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary* does so, however:

2 "You use much emphasize that something happens very often, eg She doesn't talk about them much..."*

In S2, with the conditional if-clause, does much mean "often"? In this particular sentence much seems to mean something more like "for any significant length of time." This may be a function of the limited temporal context ("this"), since if we substitute a longer time period, e.g. "these past few weeks" the meaning could very well be that of frequency.

A related point: I've always been intrigued by the pairs

4a) Do you watch TV much?
4b) Do you watch much TV?

5a) He doesn't play tennis much these days
5b) He doesn't play much tennis these days

Technically, even though the a and b utterances are semantically (but not stylistically) identical, in the a versions much is an adverb of frequency, while in the b versions much is an adjectival quantifier. Or is it?

And what about "I haven't seen much of her lately"? Compare it with: "I haven't seen much of her work lately." Some grammatical structures are simply very hard to pin down.

Marilyn Martin


Last edited {1}
Chuncan Feng asks:

What about the "much" in these sentences?
S4 Much this way had it been with the Town-Ho.
S5 And much this way it was with me.
S6 You won't be "free" as you call it much this side of Christmas, I can see that.
Ss 4 and 5 illustrate a complex kind of word order inversion that is used by writers striving for a literary or poetic effect. Such alteration in the standard word order is not found in ordinary, everyday language use.

The standard, or canonical, version of S4 is

It had been much this way with the Town-Ho

The standard, canonical, version of S5 is

And it was much this way with me

What does much mean in these two sentences? It is an adverb of degree, modifying "this way," and means "to a great extent." This way in these two sentences is not a noun phrase, as it would be in "This way is better than that one." It is instead a phrase meaning "like this."

S6 is a little different. The expression "this side of [Christmas]" is a temporal idiom meaning "before [Christmas]." Much is still an adverb, this time modifying the idiom "this side of." The closest that one can come to a paraphrase would be

You won't be "free," as you call it, at any point in time [that is] much earlier than Christmas....

The styles of the three sentences are not the same. While Ss 4 and 5 are formal and literary, S6 is colloquial.

Marilyn Martin
Many thanks for the explanation of the use of "much" in the previous 6 sentences.

Presently I'm working on 2859 sentences of "much" extracted from literary works. Sentences involving such as "much homework" and "like the play very much" are not included.

Here are 7 other sentences I find it difficult for me to explain the use of "much":

S7 It was her long contemplated apple of discord, and much her hand trembled as she handed the document up to him.
S8 Ay, much his temper is like Vivien's mood, Which found not Galahad pure, nor Lancelot brave;
S9 if it please you, he shall ride with you unto that jousts; and he is of his age strong and wight, for much my heart giveth unto you that ye should be a noble knight, therefore I pray you, tell me your name, said Sir Bernard.
S10 I require thee tell me your name, for much my heart giveth unto you.
S11 When turnips were a filling crop,
In scorn they jumped a butcher's shop:
Or, spite of threats to flog and souse,
They jumped for shame a public-house:
And much their legs were seized with rage
If passing by the vicarage.
S12 I am sure that so regular as the months of August, September, and October come round, I am ashamed of myself in my own private bosom for the way in which I make believe to care whether or not the grouse is strong on the wing (much their wings, or drumsticks either, signifies to me, uncooked!), and whether the partridges is plentiful among the turnips, and whether the pheasants is shy or bold, or anything else you please to mention.
S13 Lear: What's he that hath so much thy place mistook
To set thee here?

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.