Bob drinks much wine.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by britneyM, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    I'd like to understand the usage of 'much.'

    Question 1
    My textbook says 'much' cannot be used in positive sentences unless it is used as the subject or a part of the subject, but it can be used in positive sentences if it is used together with 'as,' 'so,' 'too,' and so on, i.e. s11 and s21 are incorrect but s12 and s22 are correct.
    Is that right?

    s11: Bob drinks much wine.
    s12: Bob drinks too much wine.

    s21: Bob wants much butter.
    s22: Bob wants as much butter as Meg.

    Question 2
    But my textbook doesn't say anything about why.
    Why are s11 and s21 incorrect and why are s12 and s22 correct?

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2008
  2. mtmjr

    mtmjr Senior Member

    California/Ohio (US)
    English (US)
    I guess I am confused too. While there is no question that "much" as an adjective such as is used in s11 and s21 sounds awkward, I cannot say that I've not heard it used in cases such as:

    "Your being here brings me much happiness."
     
  3. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    I have seen much being used to qualify feelings, as in, much joy, much happiness.
    But, the usage with objects, such as butter, is rarer.
     
  4. mtmjr

    mtmjr Senior Member

    California/Ohio (US)
    English (US)
    I wish I could help on more technical grounds, but I'm not a grammarian. As far as your textbook is concerned, they've got it right. I just do what sounds right and that's something that only comes with extensive exposure to the language. I know that when I'm learning French, there are rules that I just have to outright memorize.
     
  5. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Thank you very much for the replies.
    I'm very surprised to hear that 'much joy' and 'much happiness' are correct. That's a big discovery to me!
    But I'm sorry and it's still tough for me to understand why.

    If it's difficult to tell why, would you please tell me what you feel to see s11 and s21? It will help me to understand why.
    Any feeling is OK. For examples, they might be as follows:
    feeling 1: s11 and s21 are weird. Because 'much' in s11 and s21 don't mean amount.
    feeling 2: s11 and s21 are funny. My school teacher also said so.
    feeling 3: s11 and s21 are ridiculous. Nobody says that.

    That is to say, any feeling is OK. I need your feelings. They are the only thing that helps me to undestand why. Or I could feel as you feel after I understand your feelings.

    Would you tell me what you feel to see s11 and s21?
    (If many teachers tell me your feelings, I will be so happy.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2008
  6. Esca

    Esca Senior Member

    ATX
    USA - English
    If I saw s11 and s21, I would think that the person who wrote them was not a native English speaker. I think using "much" that way is a common mistake for people who are learning English--to the extent that it is often used by native English speakers to make fun of these people.

    "Much" is not a concrete amount--it is only a word used to discuss an amount in theory. It means something like "a quantity."
    So you can say,
    "How much do you want?" = "What quantity do you want?"
    "That's too much!" = "That's too large a quantity!"
    "We didn't eat much." = ("We didn't eat a quantity")"We ate so little that it's hardly worth describing it as a quantity."

    BUT:
    ????"He wants much butter." = "He wants a general quantity of butter."????
    It doesn't really make sense. :(
    Hope that helps you!
     
  7. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Your textbook is simply wrong: "much" can indeed be used in positive sentences without being part of the subject. There is nothing strange or ungrammatical about saying, for example, "John has had much success with his new invention."
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2008
  8. Esca

    Esca Senior Member

    ATX
    USA - English
    So, combining what GWB and previous posters have said, you can use "much" in that context, but only with abstract ideas (success, joy, happiness).
    You can have a "general quantity" of joy, but you cannot have a "general quantity" of butter.
    How's that?
     
  9. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I am not sure I would agree with that. For example, we can also say that John has made much money with his clever inventions. "Money" does not seem to be an abstract idea.
     
  10. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    I'm with GWB on this one, and I believe - with not much hesitation - that I would go as far as to say that "much" can be used with things other than abstract things.

    Couldn't you say, for example, "the Spanish found much gold and other precious metals in the new World"? (and I don't mean many!) Or "Baking what was claimed to be the largest-ever cake in the world used much butter, flour....and elbow-grease!"
     
  11. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    OK, I see we're pretty much agreed on that! I think people are now used to using "a lot of", to the exclusion of "much", and that's why it seems strange to some when they see it used.
     
  12. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    BritneyM, I realise that leaves with something of a difficulty. The two phrases S11 and s12 are, we think, technically acceptable but would not regularly be used in spoken English. To that extent, we would have to say your textbook is inaccurate. Possibly they are simply discouraging you from using these types of expresion because they are not commonplace forms. S21, in particular, is a strange thing to say; but, for example, there would be nothing wrong with saying "Bob wants much rest over the holidays".
     
  13. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Another example that does not seem strange to me:

    In my years of working here, I have seen much water flow under that bridge.

    I think positive much means "quite a bit (of)". In other words, it is an understatement of "a lot (of)". Similarly, positive many means "quite a few (of)", understating "lots (of)".

    I might say "Bob drinks much wine and eats much butter" if we are trying to explain his morbid obesity, but "Bob wants much butter" is strange, perhaps because the consequences of wanting are less obvious than the consequences of drinking and eating.

    I don't have an answer to the question of what works and why with positive much or many, but perhaps if we can work out why understatement in general works or doesn't work, there may be some clues there.
     
  14. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    Your idea is interesting, forero. I have never thought of these expressions in terms of understatement before. Instead, as I said in an earlier post, they are, for me, synonymous with "lots of/a lot of". I'm not entirely persuaded, I have to say - when I think, for example, of the expression "There are many, many reasons why English can be a frustrating language to learn", I am inclined to imagine there being (at least in the speaker's, or writer's, mind, lots and lots of reasons.

    (And, slightly tongue in cheek, did Shakespeare really mean "Quite a bit ado about nothing?)

    I'd be interested to hear other views.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2008
  15. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I was talking about modern usage, since a lot and lots started replacing the traditional meaning of much and many, but I must have gone too far by generalizing my comments to many.

    So far we have:

    1. Positive much is only used in a subject.
    2. Positive much is only used with abstractions, not concrete things.
    3. Positive much means "a general quantity".
    4. Positive much is not commonplace, but certainly not wrong.
    5. Positive much is a kind of understatement for "a lot (of)".

    None of these tells the whole story, and usage may vary regionally. I must disagree with #1, but the others all seem to have some merit. I think #4 explains why we each have our own theories, but still, as far as 20th/21st-century usage, does "Bob wants much butter" sound natural to any native speaker?

    (An example from American literature: In The Thirteen Clocks, James Thurber tells of a "Golux" who knows "somewhat less than much and only a little more than anything.")
     
  16. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    That reasoning does sound quite neat to me. That will explain why we can say, 'He earns much' but rather, 'I want to earn a lot'
     
  17. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    I don't know, Forero. I agree "Bob wants much butter" doesn't sound very natural, but I'm not able to say it's wrong - point #4, in other words. For me, 1 and 2 are wrong, and 3 is too neutral - "much", to me, infers "largeness of quantity" that the idea of "general" quantity cannot convey.

    I would still like a #6 to be added, such as "Positive much is a synonym for "a lot of". I don't see how else you could interpret a statement like "There is much poverty in Africa".
     
  18. hem_dinesh

    hem_dinesh Senior Member

    india
    India- Local Dialect & English
    Hello,

    what should be used in place of much in those situations. Everybody discussed about this but I'm not able to analyse the solution for those situations which come across much like in this sense. Could anyone tell about this please.

    Thanks.
     
  19. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    You mean these situations, Dinesh?

    Bob drinks a lot of wine.
    Bob drinks too much wine.

    Bob wants a lot of butter.
    Bob wants as much butter as Meg.
     
  20. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Woooow!!
    Super!!
    Gotcha!!

    I got what you feel!
    I'm so happy to have so many and detailed feelings. I think I could feel like you from now on.
    Thank you!

    By the way, can I ask one more?
    Why do these regulations or fetters disappear the moment 'much' becomes part of the subject? Or why are s31 and s32 correct while s11 and s21 are incorrect?

    s31: Much wine got Bob drunken.
    s32: Much butter was made.
     
  21. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    "Much wine got Bob drunk" (not drunken") is not exactly wrong, but it's not an attractive expression and you wouldn't hear it used. Apart from anything else, the structure is unusual - I know it was the wine that got Bob drunk, but you would normally have Bob as the subject of the sentence, such as "Bob got drunk as a result of drinking too much wine". Notice, also, that instinctively I want to add "too" again.

    "Much butter was made" is correct but again that structure won't be heard very often. It's old-fashioned. Now, you're more likely to hear (or read) "a lot ofbutter was made".

    Remember that, although opinions are somewhat split, some of us are saying that, technically at least, s11 and s21 are correct.
     
  22. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Much butter was made. :tick:
    They made much butter. :tick:
    Bob wants much butter.
    ?

    The jury is still out on why this last sentence seems less natural, though it works with "a lot of".
     
  23. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    To put a fly in the ointment (or the butter), it may be noted that "want" also means to lack, or to be in need of something. If one said "My son sometimes wants common sense", it would mean that sometimes my son acts in a way that indicates he does not have common sense, or that he needs more common sense. I think that as odd as the sentence "Bob wants much butter" is regardless of meaning, it is a little less odd when this uncommon meaning of "want" is intended. For example:
    Bob would like to bake the world's largest pound cake. He has sufficient flour and eggs to do it, but the task cannot be performed because Bob wants much butter.
     
  24. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    >Remember that, although opinions are somewhat split, some of us are saying that, technically at least, s11 and s21 are correct.

    I well understand that. "s11 and s21 are inncorrect" is not my understanding. I mistook when writing. I well understand what you say although I can't explain any better because of my poor English. I'm sorry I mistook.

    >Apart from anything else, the structure is unusual

    I see. I'd like to stop talking about s31 because I think its structural problem makes the point of discussion complicated needlessly.

    I'm surprised to hear that 'They made much butter.' is correct. Is that true? Does it have no problem?

    Let me confirm. Are the following sentences correct?
    s11: Bob drinks much wine.
    s13: Bob got much wine.
    s14: Bob needs much wine.
    s15: Much wine flew
    s16: Much wine went rotten.
    s17: Much wine was made.
    note. We have discussed s11. Please ignore it. I just listed it for my memory.

    s21: Bob wants much butter.
    s23: Bob got much butter.
    s24: Bob needs much butter.
    s25: Much butter flew.
    s26: Much butter went rotten.
    s27: Much butter was made.
    note. We have discussed s21. Please ignore it. I just listed it for my memory.
     
  25. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    >it is a little less odd when this uncommon meaning of "want" is intended.

    I well understand that.
    Thank you.
     
  26. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    Well now, britneyM, you have presented us with lots of alternatives there in post #24.

    Firstly s15: wine (and other liquids, including water/rivers) flow, but the past tense in this case is "flowed", not "flew" (you are confusing "flow" with "fly", whose past tense is indeed "flew").

    S13 is OK. It's not clear whether "got" means "bought" or "received", but either way the sentence is acceptable. Normally, as with "Bob wants much butter", you would expect the sentence to continue: "...because...", for example.

    s16: wine and other "perishable" produce either becomes rotten, rots, goes bad or goes off. The formulation "goes rotten" is incorrect. Subject to that correction, this phrase, using "much", is also acceptable but again it begs a question: why did it go off? Again, therefore, you won't normally find a phrase such as this in isolation, but rather with a complementary clause explaining the first one.

    s25 - butter, unless it's melted, cannot flow so this is incorrect (in addition to the same error of using "flew" instead of "flowed").

    s26 - same comment as for s16.

    The most important issue for me is that whilst I am clear that your use of "much" is, generally speaking, correct in all of these examples, the phrases themselves are unusual without something more added. In the right context - for example describing a party or a wedding - the sentence "Much wine flowed" would be unarguably correct; likewise during a heatwave, "Much butter went off" makes complete sense and would be acceptable. Alternatively, the "sense" could come from extending the sentence itself: "Bob got much wine for his birthday from his friends, all of whom knew that it was what he likes to drink most".
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  27. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    I see.

    Then let me change the sentences to the following ones:

    Let me confirm. Are the following sentences correct?
    s11: Bob drinks much wine.
    s111: Bob got much wine.
    s112: Bob needs much wine.
    s113: Much wine fllowed.
    s114: Much wine went bad.
    s115: Much wine was made.
    note. We have discussed s11. Please ignore it. I just listed it for my memory.

    s21: Bob wants much butter.
    s211: Bob got much butter.
    s212: Bob needs much butter.
    s213: Much butter flowed.
    s214: Much butter went bad.
    s215: Much butter was made.
    note1. We have discussed s21. Please ignore it. I just listed it for my memory.
    note2. Please think 'butter' in s213 means 'melted butter' and it could flow.

    I'll be so happy if I could have your feelings.
     
  28. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    Now that I see it in print, I'm not so happy with "went bad", at least in past tense. There are better-sounding alternatives, perhaps "went off" is better, and certainly "was ruined" or "was spoiled" are better choices.

    s211: Bob got much butter. :tick:
    s212: Bob needs much butter. :tick:
    s213: Much butter flowed. :tick: (after melting!)
    s214: Much butter went bad. Again, not wrong but see comments above for other alternatives
    s215: Much butter was made. :tick:
     
  29. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    I see.

    Would you please classify them into the following three classes?

    Class Good: Correct, natural, and has no problems.
    Class Middle: Middle.
    Class Bad: Correct but odd or not natural or usually avoided.

    I thik s11 and s21 are class Bad.

    s11: Bob drinks much wine. Class Bad
    s111: Bob got much wine.
    s112: Bob needs much wine.
    s113: Much wine flowed.
    s114: Much wine went off.
    s115: Much wine was made.

    s21: Bob wants much butter. Class Bad
    s211: Bob got much butter.
    s212: Bob needs much butter.
    s213: Much butter flowed.
    s214: Much butter went off.
    s215: Much butter was made.
    note. Please think 'butter' in s213 means 'melted butter' and it could flow.

    My core question is why 'much' used as part of the subject is correct.
    But before asking my core question, I think I had to know how correct they are.
    That's why I asked for classifying.
     
  30. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    If it's difficult to classify them into three classes, would you please explain how correct they are or what problems they have by using sentences?
     
  31. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    To be honest, BritneyM, I think we've covered all of this already in the course of the thread. If you read through it again from start to finish, you should now get the answers you are looking for.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2008
  32. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    Do you mean all the sentences, s11 to s215, are correct if they are used in the right context or if something more is added?

    I absolutely or completely agree with that.

    But s11 (Bob drinks much wine.) and s21 (Bob wants much butter.) has more problems than s215 (Much wine was made.) does. It is clear judging from the facts that Esca says "using "much" that way is a common mistake for people who are learning English--to the extent that it is often used by native English speakers to make fun of these people." in #5 and Forero puts a question mark on s21 only in #22, and so on.

    But nobody says such things about s215. That means s215 is almost correct by itself or without something more added.

    Some teachers said that's because 'much' in s215 is used as part of the subject. My textbook also says the similar thing.

    Then I come to my core question. Why is 'much' used as part of the subject correct without something added or the right context?

    But I think I have to stop talking because I think I have took too much of your time. I'm so sorry. I'll think a little more myself.

    I'd like to thank you for giving me so much advice and warm help. I'm sure my understanding made an unvbelievable big leap.

    Thank you.
     
  33. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    The difficulty, britneyM, as this thread has shown, is that there are often differences of opinion as to English usage, and often no absolutely "right" answer. Because of that, it is dangerous to draw to many conclusions from what you read here - your safest course of action is to apply the rules you see in your textbook. You can see the prolonged discussion your simple initial question provoked - that's a sign of the differences of opinion I'm talking about. Some people clearly have a problem with "Bob drank much wine", for example, and instead would say "Bob drank a lot of wine". The second phrase is certainly the one you will hear people saying more often.

    I think you also understand that you will be on safer ground using expressions like "too much", "so much" and so on.

    A final example of how "much" can safely be used as the subject: much has been written in this thread on the subject, and now it is time to move on to other topics!

    I do hope your understanding has been enhanced, and that our sometimes apparently contradictory posts/opinions have not confused you.
     
  34. britneyM Banned

    Japan Japanese
    I understnad you and am sure I'll do as you say. I'll never step out of what you say.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or 'there are rules that I just have to outright memorize.' as mtmjr says in #4. I know that but I can't stop asking why, why, why, ...? I think that is my sad nature. It sometimes causes an argument as I did here in this post.

    You say it is 'the prolonged discussion' but all the discussion is a sparkling treasure to me. I've never heard such a hot, detailed, and cordial discussion. It led me to the new world of English. I can't thank them enough.

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2008
  35. El escoces Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English - UK
    It's true that, often, learning through examples is the best method. English is a language with as many exceptions as there are rules, as I am sure you are finding out.

    An enquiring mind is anything but sad; never shy away from asking questions here. And there was no argument in this thread, just a stimulating and healthy exchange of views. I'm glad you feel it has helped.
     

Share This Page

Loading...