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Could you tell me what the pronoun, it, refers to?

Does it refer to the situation previously mentioned or indicate the fact that people with similar attitudes became friends?

Thank you in advance.



The researchers believed that physical space was the key to friendship formation; that “friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood.” In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and so came to adopt similar attitudes over time.

Last edited by GBLSU
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Hi, GBLSU,

@GBLSU posted:

The researchers believed that physical space was the key to friendship formation; that “friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood.” In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and so came to adopt similar attitudes over time.

I find that "it" there is used to contrast the two noun clauses that follow (it's not this but that):

- In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and so came to adopt similar attitudes over time.

"so much" and "rather" can be omitted to be more categorical in discarding the first option and asserting the second one:

- It's not that people with similar attitudes will always become friends, but that they will become friends when they see each other often and adopt similar attitudes over time.

Hi, GBLSU,

I find that "it" there is used to contrast the two noun clauses that follow (it's not this but that):

- In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and so came to adopt similar attitudes over time.

"so much" and "rather" can be omitted to be more categorical in discarding the first option and asserting the second one:

- It's not that people with similar attitudes will always become friends, but that they will become friends when they see each other often and adopt similar attitudes over time.

Hi, Gustavo, sorry to cut in but this is exactly the same type of question which I would intend to bring up soon.

Based on your answer, am I o.k. to understand above "it" as an "impersonal subject", which refers to a vague situation, not "a referential it" and the "so much that clause" as a complement of the verb - "was"?

Last edited by deepcosmos

When "it" is alone, I think it is merely an emphatic  "it" used to stress the whole sentence. It always appears in pairs, as you can read in this old thread. Since the whole sentence is being emphasized, I understand that "so much" merely modifies "not" to soften the negative effect, while "rather" softens the assertion that follows:

- People with similar attitudes did not become friends. Instead, people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (Normal sentences)

- It wasn't that people with similar attitudes became friends. It was that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (Emphatic sentences)

- It wasn't so much that people with similar attitudes became friends but rather that people who passed each other during the day became friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (Emphatic sentences with a hedge, i.e. so much and rather)

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

des will always become friends, but that they will become friends when they see each other often and adopt similar attitudes over time.

  I have another question.  Is it possible to say like, ' It wasn't so much that people with similar attitudes became friends as that people who pass, ?

Given that there are a lot of sentences using the pattern, it looks possible, but I am not sure.   It looks wrong to me to write the noun clause after the preposition, 'as'.

@GBLSU posted:

Is it possible to say like, ' It wasn't so much that people with similar attitudes became friends as that people who pass, ?

I'd like to know David's opinion. Personally, I think that for that comparison between clauses to work "as much as" needs to appear in the middle:

- It wasn't that people with similar attitudes became friends as much as that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (It was the latter rather than the former.)

Surfing the Internet, for example, for "as much as that he" (instead of "he" we could look for any other noun or pronoun in subject position), we can find some interesting examples:

- It wasn’t that Mr. Christy gave me that book as much as that he cared enough to give me that book (Source).

- It isn't that he trusted actors as much as that he loved to see them work (Source).

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator

When "it" is alone, I think it is merely an emphatic  "it" used to stress the whole sentence. It always appears in pairs, as you can read in this old thread. Since the whole sentence is being emphasized, I understand that "so much" merely modifies "not" to soften the negative effect, while "rather" softens the assertion that follows:

- People with similar attitudes did not become friends. Instead, people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (Normal sentences)

- It wasn't that people with similar attitudes became friends. It was that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (Emphatic sentences)

- It wasn't so much that people with similar attitudes became friends but rather that people who passed each other during the day became friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (Emphatic sentences with a hedge, i.e. so much and rather)

Hi, Gustavo, I really like this explanation with great thanks.

I'd like to know David's opinion. Personally, I think that for that comparison between clauses to work "as much as" needs to appear in the middle:

- It wasn't that people with similar attitudes became friends as much as that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and came to adopt similar attitudes over time. (It was the latter rather than the former.)

Surfing the Internet, for example, for "as much as that he" (instead of "he" we could look for any other noun or pronoun in subject position), we can find some interesting examples:

- It wasn’t that Mr. Christy gave me that book as much as that he cared enough to give me that book (Source).

- It isn't that he trusted actors as much as that he loved to see them work (Source).

Thank you for the extra explanation.

That's  is exactly the structure I saw.

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