Such an extensive knowledge of / so extensive a knowledge of

dreamlike

Senior Member
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?
 
  • LilianaB

    Banned
    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.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    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?"
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    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.
     
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    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you, Beryl. So, to your mind, that's nothing wrong with "so extensive a knowledge of?"
    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! :)
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you, Beryl. So, to your mind, that's nothing wrong with "so extensive a knowledge of?"
    I meant there's, of course. It's one of those things that happen when you type too fast....

    Beryl from Northallerton said:
    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.


    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?
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi, cooliein

    coolieinblue said:
    such an : You sound like you are stating you didn't expect it to be the case.


    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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