how much is their work vs how much their work is

grammar-in-use

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello everyone,

Source: How bosses should write books

So it is with trepidation that Schumpeter celebrates the flourishing of a genre at which most book-lovers would shudder: the CEO memoir. True, it has its drawbacks. The authors are mostly white, male and middle-class. They are neither Hemingways nor Dostoevskys. There is no sex, drugs and only middle-of-the-road rock ’n’ roll. And they can afford the best ghostwriters so it is hard to tell how much is their work anyway.

Questions:
(1). ...so it is hard to tell how much is their work anyway.
In "... how much is their work anyway", which is the subject, "how much" or "their work"?
Can I put "is" after "their work"?
(2). ... so it is hard to tell how much their work is anyway.

To compare with this example sentence from the Longman dictionary:
(3). How much is the insurance on your car?
Here, the subject is "the insurance (on your car)", isn't it?

Thanks a lot in advance!
 
  • LVRBC

    Senior Member
    English-US, standard and medical
    I do not think that you can move "is " in this way. The structure is different from that in which "how much is" is used as a question. Here the meaning is "it is difficult to tell what (if any) portions of the work have been done by the CEO who is the purported author."
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I do not think that you can move "is " in this way. The structure is different from that in which "how much is" is used as a question. Here the meaning is "it is difficult to tell what (if any) portions of the work have been done by the CEO who is the purported author."
    Thank you. I don't think it works that way either, but it's correct to put "is" at the end of this sentence "I don't know how much the insurance on your car is", isn't it?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    First of all you must distinguish between the declarative clause and an interrogative clause. You are talking about clauses beginning with a wh- word.

    Sentence 3 is in the interrogative form, and the verb be comes before the subject. You are happy. --> How are you? The insurance was exorbitant. --> How was the insurance? (Unless the wh- word is the subject, which then has to come first, thus: What was exorbitant?)

    So let's ignore sentence 3 because it is different.

    In a clause that starts with a wh- word, you need to know whether the wh- word represents the subject or the object. If it is the subject, the verb comes after it. If it is the object, you need to put in the verb after the subject. Thus:

    He likes apples --> I know who (=S) likes apples. I know what (=O) he likes.

    In your sentence, 'how much' works as subject. We say things like 'All of it is his work' or 'Half of it is his work'. 'His work' is complement rather than subject. So the verb is in the correct position.
     
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    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    you need to know whether the wh- word represents the subject or the object.
    The question is how we can figure out "whether the wh- word represents the subject or the object".
    (1). ...how much is their work anyway.
    (3). How much is the insurance on your car?
    Both (1) and (3) can be summarized as the "how much is NP" pattern, but they are different in that the NP "the insurance" in (3) is the subject, while the NP "their work" in (1) is not. Does this difference have to do with the distinction between the ascriptive be and the specifying be? For example, in "What I like is their work", the "is" seems to me to have the specifying sense and so does the "is" in (3), whereas in "it is hard to tell how much is their work anyway", the "is" seems to be used in the ascriptive sense, ascribing a certain amount of the work to the purported author.
    Would someone shed some light on this issue?
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've said you need to realise that (3) is an interrogative structure, so the rules are different.

    I'll accept that sometimes it's not easy to distinguish between the subject and complement. I'd say turn it to a non-wh- clause and see how it works. I've already said we say things like 'All of it (=S) is their work'. It follows then we also say 'it is not clear how much of it is their work'. We say 'The car (=S) is worth a lot of money'. It follows then we also say 'it is not clear how much the car is worth'.
     

    grammar-in-use

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I've said you need to realise that (3) is an interrogative structure
    Then let's turn the OP into an interrogative sentence:
    He asked, "How much is their work?" (Can it be taken to mean how much their work costs or is worth?)
    He asked, "How much is the insurance?"
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    For an interrogative clause, 'is' comes after 'how much' regardless of whether it's the subject or complement.
     
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