10 times the amount of gas ... than

  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    "10 times the amount ... than " is not correct. We need a comparative like 'more' if we are going to use 'than':

    "It's thought that there is as much as 10 times more gas in methane hydrates than [there is] in shale for instance."
    This is awkward, however.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, my meant that my rephrasing was awkward. I tried to think of <a> better revision, but I couldn't think of one:

    It's thought that methane hydrates contain as much as 10 times more gas than shale, for instance.

    I think "as much as .... more" is confusing. I might change it to:

    It's thought that methane hydrates contain up to 10 times more gas than shale, for instance.
    However, [X] times more than.... may be confusing. People don't always agree on what it means. See this thread: Three times as many .... as / Three times more ... than ...

    My suggestion is that you satisfy yourself with understanding the intended meaning of the sentence, but do not take it as an example of grammar to be copied. This is recorded speech, and people often say things when speaking that they might express differently in writing.

    < Edit to correct error.>
     
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    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Yes, my meant that my rephrasing was awkward. I tried to think of an better revision, but I couldn't think of one:

    It's thought that methane hydrates contain as much as 10 times more gas than shale, for instance.

    I think "as much as .... more" is confusing. I might change it to:

    It's thought that methane hydrates contain up to 10 times more gas than shale, for instance.
    However, [X] times more than.... may be confusing. People don't always agree on what it means. See this thread: Three times as many .... as / Three times more ... than ...

    My suggestion is that you satisfy yourself with understanding the intended meaning of the sentence, but do not take it as an example of grammar to be copied. This is recorded speech, and people often say things when speaking that they might express differently in writing.
    Oh that helps me a lot. Thanks for the detailed explanation. :)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    No, that doesn't work. Especially as shale has about one tenth of the gas content of methane hydrates.

    Going back:
    "It's thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates as (there is) in shale, for instance."
    Note the added comma after 'shale'.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Does the sentence sound natural? If not, how should it be rephrased?
    The original paragraph has two sentences:
    It's thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates than in shale for instance. "And that's by conservative estimates," says Prof Linga.
    This is a sad piece of poor writing from the BBC.

    As Cagey says, 'than' is not correct without a comparative term (meaning 'more' or 'less'). However, including that creates a second comparison besides 'as much as': which is, as he says, awkward.

    However, that is not the only problem. 'As much as' is a qualification indicating the figure is not exact. This means it has been estimated by scientists. However, this point is already made by the phrase 'It is thought that'. Combining these two expressions means 'Scientists think that scientists think that ...'

    There is a third problem. The phrase 'as much as ten' means 'some figure up to a maximum of ten'. However, in the next sentence we are told Prof. Linga says ten is a conservative estimate: in other words, ten is about the minimum, not the maximum figure.

    The text can be corrected and clarified by saying:
    'Scientists think methane hydrates may hold ten times more gas than shale, for instance. "And that's by conservative estimates," says Prof Linga.'
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I see no problem in writing "it is thought that there is as much as ... ". That does not mean "scientists think that scientists think that ...". If there was better evidence the statement would become "it is known that there is as much as ...". Your objection seems to be based on an assumption that the amount of gas in either shale or ice is a constant, but that is about as likely as a flying pig.

    The BBC can hardly be faulted if they are told that "there is as much as x" by a scientist who then tells them that it's a conservative estimate. That's the scientist's fault, not the reporter's.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The phrase 'as much as' is a standard form used to indicate the top of an estimated range. It makes no sense without the idea of an estimate (except, of course, when used to mean 'the same amount as': e.g. 'Fred has as much cake as Jane').
    an assumption that the amount of gas in either shale or ice is a constant
    My correction 'may hold' is not based on any such assumption.
    Even when a scientist makes a mistake in language, the author is still responsible for the correctness of what is written (except, of course, where the other person's words are quoted).
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I said nothing about your use of "may hold". I referred, clearly, to
    'Scientists think that scientists think that ...'
    The phrase 'as much as' is a standard form used to indicate the top of an estimated range. It makes no sense without the idea of an estimate
    Not so.

    It is thought that this beer glass can hold as much as a pint of beer. We have yet to collect the necessary data, so this is an estimate.
    It is known that this beer glass can hold as much as a pint of beer. We have collected the data. If filled to capacity it can hold a pint, but no more. This is not an estimate. If we choose not to fill it it can be used to hold less beer - a 500ml can's content, for example.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I said nothing about your use of "may hold". I referred, clearly, to
    'Scientists think that scientists think that ...'
    'May hold' covers the second 'think that', as well as the concept of estimated range.
    Not so.
    It is thought that this beer glass can hold as much as a pint of beer. We have yet to collect the necessary data, so this is an estimate.
    Yes it is, but it is not the same kind of estimate. This is not an estimated range. It is a supposed equivalence.
    It is known that this beer glass can hold as much as a pint of beer. We have collected the data. If filled to capacity it can hold a pint, but no more. This is not an estimate.
    This is now a verified equivalence: which, as I pointed out, is an exception.
    (except, of course, when used to mean 'the same amount as': e.g. 'Fred has as much cake as Jane')
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes it is, but it is not the same kind of estimate.
    It is exactly the same kind of estimate. A gas-loaded piece of shale is, potentially, a full pint glass.

    If we have a large assortment of lumps of shale we have the equivalent of many glasses, all of different sizes and with varying capacities. We think shale might be able to hold as much as x grams of gas per unit volume. That is an estimate based on our prior knowledge of the characteristics of shale. We take samples and see how much gas they hold. Each is different, but no sample ever holds more than x grams per cubic metre. We now know that shale may contain as much as x grams per cubic metre. That is not an estimate, it is an established fact.

    It is perfectly good English to say before the experiment "We think shale may hold as much as x grams of gas per cubic metre". After the experiment we can correctly say "We know shale may hold as much as x grams of gas per cubic metre". Whether or not a particular sample does or does not hold that amount makes no difference to the English.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    What is the topic sentence saying?
    It's thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates than in shale...
    I understand this as 'It is thought that there is up to ten times more gas in methane hydrates than in shale', where ten is the maximum figure on a scale of possible multiples. The use of a scale or range is a mode of estimation in itself. It is a journalist's way of trying to maximise impact by mentioning the top of the range.
     
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    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    What is the topic sentence saying?

    I understand this as 'It is thought that there is up to ten times more gas in methane hydrates than in shale', where ten is the maximum figure on a scale of possible multiples. The use of a scale or range is a mode of estimation in itself. It is a journalist's way of trying to maximise impact by mentioning the top of the range.
    What do you mean by "the topic sentence"?:)
    Thanks for the explanation!
     

    Junwei Guo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks for all the comments, which was much needed!
    Further to the question:

    1.
    A. Methane hydrates contain as much as ten times the amount of gas as that of shale.
    B. Methane hydrates contain up to ten times the amount of gas as that of shale.
    Could I rephrase "A" into "B"?
    2.
    What i'm interested in is the structure of this sentence. By the way, can I rephrase it into: "Methane hydrates may hold ten times the amount of gas that shale does." ?

    Thanks!
     
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    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I understand this as 'It is thought that there is up to ten times more gas in methane hydrates than in shale', where ten is the maximum figure on a scale of possible multiples. The use of a scale or range is a mode of estimation in itself. It is a journalist's way of trying to maximise impact by mentioning the top of the range.
    I agree with wandle's interpretation, but cannot agree with his phrasing.

    "It is thought that there is up to ten times as much gas in methane hydrates as in shale."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't disagree with wandle's interpretation. I disagree with his condemnation of the sentence.
    "It is thought that there is up to ten times as much gas in methane hydrates as in shale."
    Which says much the same as
    "It's thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates as (there is) in shale, for instance."
    The difference is that I was correcting the grammar, not revising the style.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I was correcting the grammar
    Why, may I ask (if the sentence is not wrong)?
    I'm asking about the sentence: "It's thought that there is as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates than in shale for instance."
    I know. My question in post 15 was not asking for an answer.
    It was a rhetorical question: a question which the writer or speaker answers himself (the purpose is just to highlight what he is talking about).
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There was a grammatical error which was the original topic of the thread. That was all that was 'wrong'. You condemned the sentence on more than the misuse of 'than'. That is what I disagreed with - as I have already explained.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    You condemned the sentence on more than the misuse of 'than'
    That is an over-interpretation. I agreed with Cagey that the use of 'than' was wrong.

    The rest of my criticism was aimed at the style and logic of the paragraph, that is, not at its grammar and only partially at the topic sentence.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The rest of my criticism was aimed at the style and logic of the paragraph, that is, not at its grammar and only partially at the topic sentence.
    I did not say that your condemnation concerned grammar. Your principal criticism was
    Combining these two expressions means 'Scientists think that scientists think that ...'
    In my opinion that criticism was wrong.

    As it happens your suggested
    'Scientists think methane hydrates may hold ten times more gas than shale, for instance.
    creates its own problem, as attested in previous threads, in that there are two possible and incompatible interpretations of "ten times more than". Your revision alters the meaning for a substantial proportion of readers. It has also created uncertainty for siares.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I did not say that your condemnation concerned grammar.
    The grammar is the clear and definite reason why the sentence is wrong. The logical issue depends upon interpretation.
    Your earlier post seemed to say you agreed with me on the interpretation and disagreed on the grammar.
    I don't disagree with wandle's interpretation. I disagree with his condemnation of the sentence.
    Now you seem to be saying the opposite.
    there are two possible and incompatible interpretations of "ten times more than"
    I do not agree that there are two possible interpretations of 'ten times more than': if there were, you could apply the same argument to 'ten times as much as'.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    No. I agreed with your overall interpretation, not with your bizarre suggestion that the form of words used meant 'Scientists think that scientists think that ...'.

    I do not agree that there are two possible interpretations of 'ten times more than': if there were, you could apply the same argument to 'ten times as much as'.
    You might not agree, and I probably interpret it as you do. However, the same argument does not and cannot apply. I can't be bothered with finding the long thread on the two interpretations of the meaning of 'x times more than'. You can do that yourself. Look on it as an adventure in discovering how something you think is simple isn't.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I agreed with your overall interpretation
    If you agree that the expression 'as much as 10 times the amount' indicates a range, then you seem to accept that that expression itself involves an estimate. I do not want to maintain that, combined with the introductory phrase 'it is thought that', it necessarily creates a tautology: just that the loose writing in the final paragraph makes that the likely interpretation.

    How did the writer's grammatical error come about? It seems clear that in the phrase 'as much as 10 times the amount of gas in methane hydrates than in shale' the writer is confusing two different expressions: (a) 'ten times as much as in shale' and (b) 'ten times more than in shale'. This suggests that the writer thinks correctly that the two expressions are equivalent and thinks incorrectly that the terms can be interchanged without a problem.

    The idea that 'ten times more than x' means 'eleven times x' involves the fallacy of making a single expression do the work of two separate mathematical operations (multiplication followed by addition). If that were acceptable in maths or in logic, it could just as well be applied to the expression 'ten times as much as' with the same illogical result.
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Do we agree that in the expression "ten times more than X" the meaning of "ten times" is "ten times X"?
    Not by itself. The phrase 'ten times more than x' means 'ten times x'. 'Ten times' on its own is undefined.
    'More' in this expression means 'greater'. 'Ten times more than ten' denotes a number ten times bigger than ten: and that number is a hundred.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    If that were acceptable in maths or in logic, it could just as well be applied to the expression 'ten times as much as' with the same illogical result.
    That is an incorrect statement. The whole argument over "more than" is based on the use of "more". "Ten times as much as" can never imply an addition, only multiplication. The meaning of "x times moe than" has been argued to death, with no conclusion, in other threads. There seems little point in your reopening the argument in this thread. Whatever you and I think "ten times more than" means (and we agree), many others disagree. Hence, your proposed revision of the OP sentence, for some people, changes the meaning. If the writer wished to convey the meaning, to all of his readers, that the gas-holding capacity of methane hydrites was up to 10 times the capacity of shale, then he was correct to use "as much as" which has only one possible meaning.

    Here we have a comment that makes the point about meaning
    I agree with wandle's interpretation, but cannot agree with his phrasing.

    "It is thought that there is up to ten times as much gas in methane hydrates as in shale."
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The idea of 'more than' is part of this topic, because it is implied by the writer's use of 'than'. If you accept the erroneous idea that it is possible for a single expression to denote two separate mathematical operations, then there is no defence to the argument that 'as much as' means 'as well as' and therefore expresses addition as much as multiplication.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It isn't part of this topic. The sentence does not use the word 'more'. The error was using "than" after "as much". You assume the writer was thinking 'more' but you have no way of knowing what he was thinking and no justification for that claim.
    , then there is no defence to the argument that 'as much as' means 'as well as' and therefore expresses addition as much as multiplication.
    There can only be one response to that: "rubbish". Nobody in his right mind could interpret 'as much as' to mean 'as well as'. (EDIT. In this context, of arithmetic comparison.)

    You talk of an erroneous idea. I also think it's erroneous, but many do not. The topic has been discussed with equal lack of agreement on language sites other than this.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    You assume the writer was thinking 'more'
    No. I say 'than' implies comparison, which means that it implies (in this context) 'more'.

    'As much as' means 'equally with'. The same argument which says 'ten times more than x' means 'ten times x over and above x' can just as well say 'ten times as much as x' means 'ten times x alongside x'.
     
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