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There were sports for boys only, which was not much funny for girls.

It's a sentence from a sixth grade English textbook. It stunned me a little bit. Can we use 'much funny'? Personally I'd say something like 'was not so funny' or 'was not too funny' or 'was not very funny' instead. But am I right?


The original text my sentence was taken from was written with a dozen mistakes on purpose, so the students were encouraged to find all the mistakes by themselves (kind of homework). However, because my English is quite poor (English is not my native language), I really wasn't sure if that particular sentence about boys and girls was indeed erroneous.

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    When I google the exact phrase it comes up in a text which has 12 deliberate mistakes in it which are to be found by the students. It is likely one of those mistakes. Jul 20 at 9:59
  • @PatrickT Do you have an example? "not much funny" does not appear in the 19th century at all, and in the 20th century as part of a patois conversation in The Color Purple. Jul 20 at 10:07
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    @PatrickT: I searched Google books, as you suggested, and found two classes of usage: firstly, foreigners using English badly; and secondly, variations on the phrase "not much funny about it", where "not much funny" means the same as "not much that is funny". So "not much funny" as used in the OP's example is a definite error.
    – TonyK
    Jul 20 at 10:52
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    Please. Always, always cite your sources. It is no good saying the phrase was from a 6th grade English textbook and then not explaining IN the original question that it comes from an English exercise, where learners have to identify the errors. The excerpt could have been spoken by a small child or be a light-hearted attempt at mimicking someone's dialect.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 21 at 20:49
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Not much fun means "not very enjoyable".

Not very funny means "not very humourous"

Not much funny doesn't mean anything.

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    Thanks, Colin. English is not my native language. I did not even realized we can use 'fun', but it seems that 'fun' can be used as an adjective/adverb and not just as noun. One small note, if that matters. The original text, from which my sentence provenes, was in fact written with a dozen mistakes on purpose. So the students were encouraged to find all the mistakes by themselves (kind of homework). However, because my English is quite poor, I really wasn't sure if that particular sentence about boys and girls was indeed erroneous.
    – Alexander
    Jul 19 at 20:35
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    @Alexander: On that, I have a story to tell: English is not my native language either, and, during high-school, I was an exchange student in the US. I watched a cheer-leader performance and, afterwards, one of the girls asked me how I liked it. I said that "it was very funny" (meaning enjoyable), she was insulted, and I did not understand why. On that day I learned that "funny" is not (generally) the adjective form of "fun", and that I should have used "it was a lot of fun" instead (or, better, "it was great", since Americans love to exaggerate, but I still had to learn that, too).
    – Heinzi
    Jul 20 at 9:38
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    @Heinzi Yep, I’ve heard similar stories from other ESL learners. The simple fact is that the differentiation English makes between ‘fun’ and ‘funny’ is actually really atypical (most languages use one word to mean either thing, or use completely unrelated words for the two concepts), which frequently leads to exactly this type of confusion for ESL learners, and similar issues in reverse for native English speakers trying to learn other languages (I have personally struggled with the lack of such a distinction while studying Swedish). Jul 20 at 12:39
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    You see this kind of thing now with Doge-speak in memes e.g. "much wow" but it's definitely not standard English.
    – JimmyJames
    Jul 20 at 15:11
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    @Alexander: You should have included the information that the original text was intentionally written with mistakes, as a test for the students, in the original question. It makes a huge difference.
    – Mark G B
    Jul 21 at 3:22
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The original sentence is definitely incorrect. The best way to rephrase depends on what you are trying to convey.

I think what they were trying to say was

There were sports for boys only, which was not much fun for girls.

meaning that it was not a pleasant/enjoyable situation for the girls and they did not get to have fun playing sports.

However, if they meant the girls were annoyed by the situation, then you could use one of your suggestions

7

In much X, X has to be a non-countable noun.

Funny is an adjective (not even a noun), so it doesn't work.


If you are thinking funny is related to fun - the meanings are actually slightly different.

  • Fun means something is pleasurable (you like or enjoy doing it)

  • Funny means something makes you laugh (you may or may not want to do it, though) and is also sometimes a synonym for unusual.

But there is no issue with much fun - that's OK.


Fun can also work as an adjective (e.g. "I like the fun games"), but when you say much fun - fun is a noun there.

Fun doesn't have an adverb form. You can always use the phrase "in a(n) X way / in a(n) X kind/sort of way" though - e.g. "She took on her work in a fun kind of way."1

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    It's surprisingly difficult to explain the difference between "fun" and "funny". For instance, an exhilarating roller coaster ride might make you laugh, but that doesn't make it funny, though it should be fun. Something can also be funny without actually making you laugh, such as the dry wit of columnist Dave Barry. I think the key is that for something to be funny, there needs to be some kind of joke, gag, or prank—though sometimes it's one perpetrated by the universe itself. Jul 20 at 5:11
  • It's also complicated by the fact that other Germanic languages (and maybe others) don't always make this distinction. In Swedish there are multiple words that mean both "fun" and "funny", such as "kul" or "skoj", which makes this a common mistake among ESL students.
    – pzkpfw
    Jul 20 at 9:12
  • @KefSchecter On top: Not everything that's funny makes you laugh. For example when the fish smells funny, or somebody gives you a funny look. Jul 20 at 9:53
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    @KefSchecter Not in relation to fish, but somebody (Feynmann?) once remarked that the most important events in the history of science were not when someone said "Eureka!" but "That's funny..." meaning "That's unexpected" or "That's peculiar" not "That makes me laugh".
    – alephzero
    Jul 20 at 10:53
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    I have to disagree slightly. Similar phrases that go against your rule are: "There was not much exciting about..."; Pressed enter too soon... "There was not much interesting for..."; "There was not much enjoyable..." and so on.
    – Aaron
    Jul 21 at 8:15
5

Native speaker here, it seems like nonsense, but as usual with English, it's all about context. Here's a realistic conversation you might hear that is technically incorrect, but does not sound "off" to other native speakers. (h/t to @PatrickT)

"Hey, check out this article."

"Man, that's really entertaining! I loved it!"

"Ok, check out this other article."

"Oh GOD! That's terrible! It advocates violence! Someone's going to get hurt!"

"I agree. It tries to pass itself off as parody, but there's not much funny about that!"

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    was not much funny for girls” is not the same construction as “there is not much funny about girls”. This isn’t even close to a spoken versus formal English thing, the sentence in the question is just wrong. Maybe in a stretch you could write “I thought the show had a lot of funny parts, but there wasn’t a much “funny” for my parents who don’t like vulgar jokes.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 20 at 19:18
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I just want to clarify some things. In the following sentence

It was not much fun for the girls.

the word "fun" is still a noun, because you cannot use an adjective after "much". For instance, "He is not much fast" is totally ungrammatical.

Since "funny" already means "humorous", you could make up "funful" as the adjective form. But people just started saying things like "that was a fun party", and that usage has gotten more and more accepted.

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    It was common at some point in recent history for prescriptive grammarians to deplore the use of "fun" as an adjective. I can't find any quotations offhand, except for one, circa 1970: It is excusable that children take "fun" for a predicative adjective. We say regularly: "It is fun," "It is more fun," "It is most fun." But it's right in there with "very unique" as the sort of thing up with which some grammarians will not put. Jul 21 at 23:03
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I'd like to comment on @Joel M Ward's answer...

While "...there's not much funny about that" is generally an accepted and common phrase, it's not fully correct.

The correct, full-version of the phrase is:

"...there's not that much that is funny about that"

So, "much funny" may show up in more casual writing and spoken English, but it is not correct.

"Much" is always used with something that is quantifiable, not with adjectives.

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Native speaker here - it wouldn't really cause me much pause to read that. I would assume the author is exhibiting some style.

While you're correct in your assessment that the structure is grammatically incorrect, you might be focussed too hard on the ideal of grammar rather than realising that grammar describes the language, it doesn't prescribe it. If a native says it, and intended to say it, it's native speech.

As an example, I personally enjoy using "for sure" as an intensifier, but injecting it into an off-beat part of the sentence. "That's the right attitude for sure" has become "that's for sure the right attitude".

Were I particularly interested, I'd read the authors other works to get an idea of their writing style and see if they experiment a little elsewhere too. If they do, I might find some experimental techniques I'd like to use myself sometime. If they don't, I spent my spare time reading in search of knowledge.

Your English skills, judging by your post, are rather strong, so it's not going to be detrimental to your learning journey to encounter experimental playfulness done by native speakers. Doubly so because the colouring outside the lines catches your eye and spurs you to ask questions like this. Even if you happen to accidentally acquire something that's not technically correct:

  1. it's easy enough to unlearn lingual habits mistakenly picked up; and
  2. a native said it so it is correct.
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  • I think I get your point, but I'd argue being a native speaker has nothing to do with it. For me it's always been, if the meaning is conveyed as intended, then it's correct.
    – TCooper
    Jul 22 at 15:42
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    Except that "much funny" is grammatically incorrect, whether or not it would personally give you pause to read it. It's not a quirk of a regional dialect, accent, or slang either, it's simply wrong. Being a native speaker has nothing to do with it. You shouldn't encourage people learning a language to use bad grammar if there's no reason to do so.
    – interduo
    Jul 22 at 16:45

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