Dear teachers,

Please tell me which is correct among these sentences:

1. Such a strong public opinion was it that he had to resign.

2. Such was a strong public opinion that he had to resign.

3. Such was the strength of public opinion that he had to resign.

Thank you. 

Original Post

Hello, Coco, and happy New Year.

"such" can be used at the beginning and cause inversion only when it is an independent intensifier, that is, when it can be used alone.

Notice that with "a strong public opinion" the intensifier "such" will form part of the phrase: such a strong public opinion. We cannot say: The strong public opinion was such... Instead, we could say: The public opinion was so strong..., which can be inverted as:

So strong was the public opinion that...

However, we can say:

- The strength of the public opinion was such... (notice that such appears alone in the predicate)

and this can be inverted as:

Such was the strength of the public opinion that...

Therefore, the correct option is (3).

Gustavo, Contributor posted:

"such" can be used at the beginning and cause inversion only when it is an independent intensifier, that is, when it can be used alone.

Hello, Coco and Gustavo,

I agree with you, Gustavo, that (3) is the only decent sentence of the three and that "such" causes inversion when it appears as an independent intensifier at the beginning of a clause. I think there are rare cases, however, in which "such" is part of a larger noun phrase at the beginning of a clause in which subject-auxiliary inversion is used. Coincidentally, I just happened upon an example of this in Ethan Frome, a 1911 novella by Edith Wharton which I recently read and am now rereading:

QUOTE

"So marked was the change in her manner, such depths of sad initiation did it imply, that, with some doubts as to my delicacy, I put the case anew to my village oracle, Harmon Gow; but got for my pains only an uncomprehending grunt."

- Edith Wharton (bold lettering mine)

I think that perhaps, if Coco really wants to have the sentence begin with, as she puts it, "such + a noun" (i.e. a noun phrase of which "such" is a part), she could do so by changing "it" to expletive "there," making "public opinion" a noncount noun, and changing "strong" to "negative":

4. Such negative public opinion was there that he had to resign.

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