Such an extensive knowledge of / so extensive a knowledge of

Discussion in 'English Only' started by dreamlike, Mar 18, 2012.

  1. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hi everyone :)

    If you were to rephrase the sentence:
    (1) I was surprised by how much she knew about cars.
    using the word "extensive", and being provided with the first part of the sentence which reads
    (2) I would never expect her to have ... [extensive]

    what would your sentence look like? I took the CAE exam yestarday and I had to come up with the solution to this problem. My answer was:
    (2) I would never expect her to have so extensive a knowledge of cars.

    Only to realise a few seconds after having handed in the answer key to the examinator that the correct transformation should read as: (2) I would never expect her to have such an extensive knowledge of cars.

    I take it that my answer was not permissible since "knowledge" is an abstract, and more importantly, an uncountable noun, in which case the definite article should be left out?
     
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    I don't know if you'll get marks for it, but you deserve them. I prefer the version you handed in, though the other is also acceptable.
     
  3. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Such an extensive knowledge of cars. I think according to grammar rules and for testing purposes this is the only correct answer. Some people may like your version, but I know nothing about it. I would personally never use it this way.

    After further thought:
    Your version has in fact a justification in the English grammar, and I think, it is correct. It is sometimes used for the emphasis. I am not sure if you will get points for your answer or not, because the other version is usually used if no emphatic effect is meant.

    Such an extensive knowledge has the indefinite article too. Knowledge is not uncountable here: it is a specific type of knowledge.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  4. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Liliana, I am perfectly aware that "such an extensive knowledge of cars" is the version preferred by most of people. Had I given more thought to it, I would have probably chosen it, too. I wonder, though, whether the version I came up with is also acceptable.

    Thank you, Beryl. So, to your mind, that's nothing wrong with "so extensive a knowledge of?"
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  5. modulus Senior Member

    ইংরেজি - আমেরিক
     
  6. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thanks for all your answers.

    Modulus - I can't really tell why I have decided to use the version with "so ... a ...". I've been reading a lot of English papers recently and noticed that this construction is very popular with journalists. Perhaps that's what influenced my answer. It was not my intention to show off, though :D I hope they'll accept my answer - as far as I can say they have no reason not to.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  7. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    Yes indeed - I prefer it.

    n.b. there is a problem with the tense of (2), both versions of (2) - but from your introduction I gather that you are not responsible for that part i.e. it was supplied by the exam script.

    Again, I have no idea what they are expecting by way of an answer - it could be they were not testing for this construction at all, but something entirely different, like tense coherence.

    It's as well to keep in mind that there exist cultural differences with regard to the business of examining - which is to say that, for example, the French may have an entirely different approach to teaching and (subsequently) examining English, than do (say) the Poles, or anyone else.
    I'm reminded of a thread from some months ago, which started with an innocent enough question taken from a Polish script, but turned into an almighty barney - of course, I blame the script! :)
     
  8. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Yes, I agree. I think it should have been: I wouldn't have expected her to have such an extensive knowledge of cars.
     
  9. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I meant there's, of course. It's one of those things that happen when you type too fast....



    The beggining of the sentence might have looked a bit different. I can't recall exactly, but even if it had and I did fiddle with the tense here, I think it would have no bearing on what the sentence should look like and "so extensive a knowledge of cars" would be equally applicable?
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
  10. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    Yes, in my opinion "so extensive a knowledge of cars" would be equally applicable. (I've phoned a friend).
     
  11. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, Beryl. :)
     
  12. coolieinblue Senior Member

    Seoul,Korea
    Korean
    Hello, dreamlike

    so : makes you sound a bit emotional.
    such an : You sound like you are stating you didn't expect it to be the case.
     
  13. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hi, cooliein



    Which is well covered by the beginning of the sentence - but I agree that "such" might add to the improbability a bit. The distinction you made doesn't hold true for every context - usually, I think the "so" construction adds the touch of formality to the sentence - I consider it more elevated.
     

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