I have a question about the following sentence (from page 174 of the book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini):

  1. "Although designed for a laugh, the remark is as much instructive as humorous."

How is the meaning changed if much is deleted? In another word, how is "as much instructive as humorous" different from "as instructive as humorous"?

Added Section:

Suppose I then write the following sentence:

  1. To us, he is as much a friend as a colleague.

Sentence 2 uses much in the "to what extent" sense.
Could it be that sentence 1 also uses much in the "to what extent" sense, instead of the "very" sense?

1 Answer 1


The meaning isn't essentially changed—but much, like very, acts as an intensifier.

Your gift is appreciated.
Your gift is much appreciated.

The second sentence expresses a higher level of gratitude.

Strangely, although I find the use of both much instructive and much humorous on their own to be ungrammatical, the use of as much instructive as humorous sounds fine to to me.

(And, equally strange, as very instructive as humorous also sounds wrong.)

So, the use of as much here may be the author's attempt to say that the remark is both very instructive and (equally) very humorous.

Having said all of that, I doubt anybody would notice the difference if much were removed.

  • I edited the original question. I would appreciate it if you could offer some comments on it.
    – meatie
    Aug 21, 2018 at 3:12
  • @meatie The second sentence could be analyzed and used in the same way as the first sentence. With its particular noun (friend), a different construction of much would need to be used in order for it to be thought of as an intensifier, but it is still possible: She was not much of a friend. The positive version is still grammatical, even if it's not idiomatic: She was much of a friend. However, the same analysis applies. (It would be very unusual for somebody to say that sentence and mean that somebody was a bad friend and equally bad colleague—instead they would use as little.) Aug 21, 2018 at 3:35

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