How paradoxical that the world’s greatest chefs have all been men! Cooking would clearly seem to be a field that lies exclusively within women’s realm, yet the annals of cookery are replete with masculine names: Brillat Savarin, Ritz, Diat, Larousse.

I have two questions for you:

1)Why did the author use "that" after the adjective "paradoxical"? we have the examples "how big is the house" or "how good you are at learning languages" without having "that".

2) What is the difference between "Cooking would clearly seem to be" and "Cooking clearly seem to be"?

Source: 1100 words you need to know


You ask

Why did the author use "that" after the adjective "paradoxical"?

How paradoxical is an exclamation.

Exclamations often have no explicit verb. The verb is implicit:

{something} IS so very paradoxical.

What is the "something"?

In your sentence, the that-clause is the "something"; the that-clause is the subject of the verb IS which is implicit in the exclamation:

That the world's great chefs have all been men
(so very) paradoxical.

We could also make that sentence using it as a kind of placeholder for the content supplied by the that-clause:

How paradoxical it is, that the world's great chefs have all been men.

P.S. Compare the following where the that-clause is the subject:

That the Ferrari is a fast car is undisputed.

That a triangle has three sides is a basic fact of geometry.

That the starving sailors had resorted to cannibalism was not released to the public.

How gruesome, that the starving sailors had resorted to cannibalism

How interesting, that this fact had not been released to the public.

  1. A paradox is a situation, so the adverb "paradoxically" does not describe a person or a thing. In both of the examples you cite, the adjectives refer to the object or person.

Look at another adjective as an example - let's use the word brilliant:

How brilliant the world's greatest chefs are!

Here "brilliant" is describing the chefs themselves. They are brilliant.

How brilliant that the world's greatest chefs are men!

Here the word "brilliant" is not describing the chefs, but the situation in which all the world's greatest chefs are men. That is needed to introduce the clause that follows to show that it is the situation that is paradoxical, not the chefs.

  1. The word "would" is sometimes used to make a sentence less direct.

For example:

I expect you to be home at 4pm.

I would expect you to be home at 4pm.

The first is very specific - the person expects you home at 4pm. It could even be taken as a demand that you must be home at that time. The second sentence, however, is looser; it implies that this is the time they would expect, perhaps under usual circumstances or thereabouts.

Likewise, in your sentence, the writer is trying to establish that a paradox exists. They are suggesting that cooking is normally something associated with women, and yet most of the greatest chefs are men. It would seem odd to first make a bold statement that the world's greatest chefs are men, and then make an equally bold but contrary statement that cooking is "exclusively within women's realm". I believe the writer has used the word "would" to soften the statement, and imply that this is what you would normally expect rather than what is definitely the case.

  • 3
    Let's also hope extract was at least written before the 70's too. These days, it's a tad 'itchy' ;) Edit I looked it up... 1971... borderline :/ May 29 '18 at 8:57
  • 2
    @Tetsujin Well, quite. Thankfully we are just here to comment on the English.
    – Astralbee
    May 29 '18 at 10:34
  • Thanks @Astralbee. The explanation was really informative and great. In the first line you said "the adjective paradoxically". I think "paradoxically" is an adverb. May 29 '18 at 10:34
  • 1
    @EnglishLearner You are quite right, and corrected. "Paradoxical" is an adjective, as are "big" and "good" in your two examples.
    – Astralbee
    May 29 '18 at 10:36
  • 1
    @EnglishLearner Okay I have edited to clarify that point too. It isn't specifically that a clause follows that demands the word "that" to be in there, but it correctly introduces it because the situation involving the chefs is paradoxical, not the chefs themselves.
    – Astralbee
    May 29 '18 at 10:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .