I know that most of the fairy tales end up with 'they lived happily ever after,' and here the phrase happily ever after is an adverbial phrase which modifies verb lived. But I read the sentence 'So much for happily every after' on page 87 of the book The Year of Billy Miller.

Is the phrase 'happily ever after' here working as a noun? And why is it used after the preposition 'for'? I assume that the phrase 'happily ever after' derives from 'lived happily every after' which means a happy ending, and it can be used as a noun phrase which means happy ending, is that right?

  • I think you should provide a larger excerpt. Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 9:20
  • 2
    It's not intended to be a grammatical complement of "for", but just a quote of some expression that it is apparently being derisory about. It could have been any expression, for example prepositions don't normally take adjective phrases as complement, but it could have read "So much for "happy and cheerful". Incidentally, a very small number of prepositions can take adverbial phrases as complement, as in "I hadn't met her until recently"; "I kept it for later";
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 9:39
  • Some people might call this use of quotes as 'scare quotes'; see here link
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 10:41

1 Answer 1


Your excerpt is a compound of two idiomatic phrases:

So much for [x].


happily ever after.

The first phrase implies that X did not turn out the way you expected, or did not function in the way you hoped, or that some effort has been pointless. For example:

The owner of the sports team decided to move them to a different city, claiming he could make more money. So much for all the fans who supported the team for over 50 years.

X is (as far as I know) always a noun or a noun phrase. You can replace "fan dedication" with any other noun, like "pepperoni pizza", assuming it makes sense in context:

I tried to cook at home but all I made was a huge mess. So much for pepperoni pizza for dinner tonight. Let's get delivery pizza instead!

Meanwhile the second phrase is used at the end of fairy-tale stories to indicate that the rest of the protagonists' lives were blissful. Again, as far as I can tell it is a noun phrase, although it can be used in compound nouns:

You'd think that they had a "happily ever after" fairy-tale romance, but apparently they fight all the time when they are at home.

Put them together and you sentence implies that the protagonist's story should have had a happy, fairy-tale ending, but it didn't.

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