Why can I use "much" in a sentence like:

Much has changed here recently.

I've seen a lot in the literature about "nothing/not much" being used, but not without negation or in interrogatives.

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    @BillJ - Your initial "no" is confusing, so just to clarify: yes, one may use "much" like this, but no, it's not considered a noun. Correct? – nollidge Dec 12 '16 at 20:34
  • Whatever you want to call it, you can use the word 'much' as in your sentence. – Alan Carmack Dec 12 '16 at 20:48
  • @BillJ in Much has changed here recently, what is the x that has been 'fused' with much? – Alan Carmack Dec 12 '16 at 21:04
  • I've converted my message into an answer. – BillJ Dec 12 '16 at 21:30
  • "Much" can be used as a pronoun, in addition to being used as an adverb. – Hot Licks Dec 12 '16 at 22:24

Looking at the Oxford English Dictionary, 'much' has many possible functions in a sentence. In the usage in the question, it would be a pronoun - substituting a noun phrase. One of its many definitions in the OED is C. 1a:

"A great deal, a great quantity"

E.g. "Much is due to the prejudices of well-meaning but uncultured people." or "Much has been done in the way of improving the Schizanthus"

So to answer the question: yes, you can use it as you do in that sentence. However, both the OED and the experts from the Cambridge Dictionary state that it is used more in negative phrases.

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"Much" is a degree determiner which typically occurs in NPs with non-count nouns, as in I don't have much money where "much" is determiner and "money" is head of the NP. But in your example, it's a special kind of 'fused determiner-head' construction where fused-head "much" has an inanimate, abstract interpretation.

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I think this is an example of language changing by common usage. "Much has changed' is something I have heard, usually on TV. It probably should be, "So much has changed."

It is similar to, "It's me." While I was growing up, a teacher would have refused this as incorrect and today, no one notices. When was the last time you heard, "It is I."?

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  • The last time I heard it was in 'Allo 'Allo. The old idiot who thought he was good at disguise had the catch phrase "It is I, leClerc!" – BoldBen Dec 12 '16 at 21:04
  • so perhaps as late as 1992 -- much later than I did! – WRX Dec 12 '16 at 21:06
  • Yes, but only in a comedy set in WW2! – BoldBen Dec 13 '16 at 21:58

This usage is correct. Much can be used as a noun:

You have much to learn.

or as an adjective:

There was much fanfare for their arrival.

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