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I wonder if it's correct to use “how + adj.” as a subject in a sentence, just the way I saw in the following sentence :

“Everybody stay where you are. Chill out,” Quill said, slowly circling around, trying to make eye contact with his teammates and these recent possible-adversaries. Turning to face Tony, he addressed him as Tony raised his faceplate. “I’m gonna ask you this one time: Where’s Gamora?”

Tony scoffed. He’d never heard of a “Gamora” but he could tell she was someone of importance. How important would give him the knowledge he needed to take control of the situation. “Yeah,” he challenged. “I’ll do you one better: Who’s Gamora?”

The Avengers 3

The context is:

Quill and Tony met for the first time on the planet of Titan, and they mistook each other for enemies and got into a fight.

In my guess, the sentence means:

The degree of her importance/ would give him the knowledge/ he needed / to take control of the situation.

Am I right? Could anyone please help me understand the meaning of the sentence?

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Your assumption is correct—and there are several ways that the sentence could be reworded.

The simplest way of looking at it is in the form of basic elision (the wording that has been left out):

He could tell she was someone of importance. How important [she was] would give him the knowledge he needed to take control of the situation.

  • thank you so much!:) so is it quite common to left out a clause like that [she was] ? and so it is ok to use "how + adj." in this way? I have this question because the most common usage I learned about "how" is that it always leads a question, or a clause, or exclamatory sentence. – user86301 Jul 15 at 4:24
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    @user86301 It's fairly common—but it only makes sense if it follows a previous sentence where the missing information can be easily understood. When I read your example paragraph, I started with the bold sentence only—and it made no sense. But as soon as I read the sentence before it, it became clear what was going on. (It would not make sense if it were the only sentence.) If it helps, you can think of how important as being in italics, where its intonation is stressed and distinct from the rest of the sentence. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 15 at 4:35
  • you explained very through and made it easy to understand. thanks for all your time and effort, really appreciated :) – user86301 Jul 15 at 5:04

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