I have a sentence in my textbook confusing me. The sentence is: Another influential factor for brokers is the extent to which the authority is centralized or decentralized.

My concern is what the role of “to” in this sentence is. As you can see, here “extent to something” looks like a noun phrase, “to which …” is usually a clause. So when the two are linked together “extent to which …”, it is a noun phrase or a clause in this sentence?

Please give me some clarification or ideas about it.

In addition, I modify this sentence as “Another influential factor for brokers is the extent that the authority is centralized or decentralized." The meaning is the same to or clearer than the original sentence?

  • 1
    [the] extent is just [a determiner plus] a noun, and the extent to which the authority is centralized or decentralized is a "noun phrase". But [the] extent to which isn't any kind of recognizable "syntactic unit" - it's just some words that happen to occur consecutively in your cited context. Feb 28, 2020 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


"Extent to which" refers to approaching something. It's like "Up to five people can join this event." which means that any number from one to five people can join, so it's not a single value, but all the values "up to."

So, your suggested edit is not the same as the original sentence, because it considers "extent" as a fixed value.

  • Thank you Jan. Do you mean "extent to which" here is a noun phrase rather than a clause? Because I saw a lot of "to which", "in which" clauses, I think "extent to which" is a clause too.
    – edgar
    Feb 28, 2020 at 17:30
  • @edgar, I believe that the comment under your question that says that "extent to which" is not any recognizable syntactic unit may be correct. I also don't think it needs to be called anything.
    – Jan
    Feb 28, 2020 at 17:36

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