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Source Anna Karenina

  • ... far as anyone can judge in so delicate and subtle a matter, I believe the chances are..

I have some questions about this text.

First, how could a verb (judge) be separated from the direct object (a matter) by adjectives (subtle and delicate)

Second, as i know, after preposition comes a noun or gerund, but i have never seen a preposition followed by adjectives, how do you explain that?

Rather than, i would use the text in this way:

_ ... Judge a matter delicately and subtly.

  • judge there is used intransitively, complemented by a prepositional phrase headed by in, in so delicate and subtle a matter. There is no direct object. That is, to judge in a matter that is so delicate and subtle. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 30 '17 at 13:00
  • What does "matter" function? @Tᴚoɯɐuo a part of preposition phrase? – Bavyan Yaldo Aug 30 '17 at 13:03
  • matter is the object of preposition in, not the object of the verb judge. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 30 '17 at 13:04
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    In a matter so delicate and subtle, it is not easy to judge. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 30 '17 at 13:07
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    Only Superman could leap so tall a building. Only Superman could leap a building so tall. A building of its (extreme) height can be leapt only by Superman. But maybe Batman could leap a tall building not quite so tall. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 30 '17 at 13:15
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My friend, I believe you're referring to adverbs rather than adjectives, like you mentioned "delicately". Nevertheless, those two words, "delicate" and "subtle" aren't adverbs ironically, but adjectives!

I mean the sentence is absolutely correct, but the register is literary and thus a little sophisticated. Therefore, no wonder you're a little confused.

Let's paraphrase the sentence together:

... as far as anyone cann judge in so delicate and subtle a matter, I believe the chances are..:

In other words:

... as far as anyone can judge in such a delicate and subtle matter, I believe the chances are...

This sounds now more familiar, right?

I hope my comment is helpful.

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First, how could a verb (judge) be separated from the direct object (a matter) by adjectives (subtle and delicate)

As Tᴚoɯɐuo said, it's an indirect object, not direct. And there's nothing wrong with separating a direct object with adjectives, e.g. "Wear warm clothing".

Second, as i know, after preposition comes a noun or gerund "so delicate and subtle a matter" is a noun phrase; the whole phrase acts as a noun. Again, there's nothing wrong with putting an adjective between a preposition and its object, e.g. "Cut the apple into small pieces".

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