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"He smiled at the idea of holding negotiations with the woman who had much the nicer hair".

What does 'much' in this sentence convey ?

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'Much' conveys the degree by which the candidate's hair's niceness exceeded that of the single other candidate. Usually, if there had been more than two candidates, the writer would have used 'much the nicest'.

The convention is that we use comparatives (e.g. much the nicer, much the bigger, much the heavier), if there are two choices, alternatives, or things being considered, and superlatives (e.g. much the nicest, much the biggest, much the heaviest) if there are more than two.

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