Below is a paragraph from my English textbook:

Bob – both my parents were in the theatre and they had made quite a name for themselves on the stage. As a child I remember our house being constantly full of famous people, laughing and talking. My sisters and me would be brought down by our nanny to kiss parents goodnight and then we would be packed off to the nursery. That's as much as we ever really saw of them at the time. It's better now, but it has left a mark on all of us – we ring each other now and again, but that's about all. I think my father understands this, but I am not sure my mother does.
Source: http://sinhngu.com/f_view.asp?CID=1908&QID=17677

I'm quite confused about the meaning of the bold sentence. I guess its meaning may be:

(1) That's the most we at any time (during our childhood) really met our parents when we were children.

or I can explain it in another longer way:

(2) During our childhood, we rarely met our parents except when our nanny brought us down to kiss our parents goodnight.

Could you please tell me whether or not I have understood that sentence correctly?

  • 3
    2) is quite a good match.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


That's as much as we really ever saw of them at the time.

Breaking down the meaning of much:

1) how much: How much do you see them? I don't see them much at all.

How much here means How often or How frequently.

2) How much do you see them? can also be expressed as: How much do you see of them?.

Possible answers are: I see them a lot; I don't see them a lot; I don't see them much. I don't see much of them. I don't see a lot of them.

3) Here the amount of time or frequency of these kids seeing their parents is limited to the parties where he would kiss them goodnight.

In descriptions in English, we refer back to what we have already said using: That's. That's=the occasion of the parties when they kissed them goodnight.

4) This much and much of can be used as a comparative adverb as in: He drove as slowly as I drove. I didn't see them as much as I would have liked. I didn't see as much of them as I would have liked.

  • Thanks for your detailed answer. Could you please also explain the word 'ever' in that case? Does 'ever' in that sentence mean 'at any time (during our childhood)'?
    – doquan0
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 15:40
  • I'm still confused about your (4) explanation. I think your examples mean 'He and I drove slowly. We drove at the same speed' and 'I didn't see them as frequently as I expected / wanted'. Then, I'm not sure if I understand the orgininal sentence correctly: the number of parties when children kissed parents goodnight is the maximal number of times that the children saw their parents during their childhood
    – doquan0
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 16:40

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