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This sentence is excerpted from Sophie's World, an Norwegian novel:

Sophie lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb and had almost twice as far to school as Joanna.

I looked into many dictionaries, like Oxford, American Heritage, Merriam-Webster, which all list far as either an adverb or an adjective. So I think almost twice as far to school as Joanna is an adverbial phrase. I think have would usually be followed by a noun phrase in English, and this sentence is translated from Norwegian, so maybe the translator is just trying to keep the style of the original language.

But then I remember I have seen this thread(please click the link) about the 'have until X to do something' structure in English Language and Usage Community on Stackexchange. In that thread, many native speakers find 'have until X to do something' a structure correct and natural to them. Someone even provide an article by a scholar to prove it.

So I wonder whether or not this sentence had almost twice as far to school as Joanna sounds correct and natural to native English speakers?

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    I haven't come across this structure. I'd have expected had to go/travel almost twice as far..... – Ronald Sole May 10 '19 at 8:43
  • It looks like a typo or error in translation to me too. – jonathanjo May 10 '19 at 9:53
  • Thanks for your opinions, Ronald and Jonathan! So neither of you thinks that it is a natural expression in English? – daiyubao May 10 '19 at 13:05
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The sentence is understandable, but it sounds odd. I don't think it would normally be phrased as it is.


There are two types of changes that would make it more idiomatic.

1. Add a verb after as far:

Sophie lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb and had almost twice as far to walk to school as Joanna.
Sophie lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb and had almost twice as far to travel to school as Joanna.

2. Change had to was and to to from:

Sophie lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb and was almost twice as far from school as Joanna.

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  • Thank you for your elaborate answer, Jason! I can fully understande the second type of change you have made. But I still have a question about the first. I think 'had' here is an lexical verb and usually a noun phrase is expected to follow it. 'Twice as far to walk to school as Joanna' still seems an adverbial phrase. Does the infinitive phrase('to walk to school') make the whole adverbial phrase('twice as far to walk to school as Joanna') look more nominal, more like a noun phrase, like in the case of 'you have until tomorrow to finish your paper'? – daiyubao May 10 '19 at 17:21
  • @daiyubao I would not call it an adverbial phrase. I would call it a noun phrase. Or at least I think it's simplest to consider it as a whole when it comes to seeing if it sounds natural or not. Another example is I have (a book that you haven't read yet). Of course, you can parse the sentence in different ways and assign different terminology to the different pieces. But In the original sentence here, it makes little sense to say you have (twice as far to school). Although meaning can be teased from it, it's not a normal thing. – Jason Bassford May 10 '19 at 17:34
  • Thank you Jason! So have twice as far to walk to school as Joanna is more natural in English, but without the infinitive to walk it would be weird, am I right to think so? – daiyubao May 10 '19 at 17:58
  • @daiyubao Yes, that's right. – Jason Bassford May 10 '19 at 18:08

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