"Enough to bring joy to the most joyless critics, isn't she?"

"Mmm. And in the hands of a real purveyor of the arts, she could be something in this country. Shame, she's fallen in with you."

"(laugh)You really are better on the page, Mr. Bennett, hard as that is to believe."

The Greatest Showman

What's the grammatical structure of "hard as that is to believe" here?

I guess he's being offensive to the critic because the critic provoked him first. So I understand what this means but I don't understand the grammar of "hard as that is to believe".

Can anyone help me with this?

  • 1
    Grammatically, it's an adjunct of concession. To understand it fully, I think we have to treat "as" as an adverb here with a meaning equivalent to "though", as in "hard though that is to believe". In more detail, it exhibits preposing of the adjective "hard": the basic version would be "though that is hard to believe".
    – BillJ
    Apr 29, 2018 at 7:57
  • 1
    We also say as hard as that is to believe. google.com/…
    – TimR
    Apr 29, 2018 at 10:27
  • Scattered among the results here you will find a similar pattern: (heavy as it was): google.com/…
    – TimR
    Apr 29, 2018 at 10:32

1 Answer 1


"As hard as that is to believe" is an idiomatic expression that means "Even though [something] seems unbelievable, nevertheless it is true." In itself, it's not insulting, but instead depends on context for its meaning. Example:

I've run ten marathons in the past month, as hard as that is to believe.

I haven't seen The Greatest Showman but it seems first Barnum (I assume it's Barnum talking) insults Bennett by insinuating he is one of the most "joyless" critics -- that nothing will please him. Bennett retorts that the performer is truly talented, so it's a shame she's working with Barnum (who lacks talent).

Barnum then good-naturedly teases Bennett by saying he is a more likable person "on the page" (meaning in his printed articles) than he is in person -- which is difficult to believe, since Bennett is not very likable in print, yet is somehow even more offensive in person.

I can't tell from this brief exchange whether the two are trading friendly gibes, or if they honestly don't like each other and are masking their dislike with polite witticisms.

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