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Much political debate is meaningless.

Is it possible to use "much" like this? I could not find this usage described in any dictionary, but I remember reading similar usages many times. Am I using it correctly or should I say instead "Much of" or any other expression?

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4 Answers 4

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It's a perfectly acceptable usage. The definition of much is a great quantity of, so you don't need to add another of unless you are limiting your statement to a particular category of something, for example "Much of the political debate I see on TV is meaningless".

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    Thank you Kate Bunting. According to Borgh's answer, "much of" must always be used to keep the text readable. This seems to be inconsistent with your answer. Who's right?
    – user167304
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:00
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    "Much ado about nothing" comes to mind.
    – esa
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 17:00
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    Well, naturally I think I am! Others seem to agree, to judge from the voting. Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 17:00
  • @KateBunting - Imho there aren't enough votes to reach that conclusion. Let's see if more people answer or vote. Contradictory answers are so frustrating!
    – user167304
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 15:27
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+100

Much is used with uncountable nouns; its meaning is akin to a lot (of), and lots (of) Many grammar books for learners and English websites advise that much should only be used in questions and in negative sentences, but that's an oversimplification, it can also be used in affirmative sentences.

  • How much fear and distrust is there in the world? (interrogative)

  • There is a lot of fear and distrust in the world.
    There is much fear and distrust in the world. (formal)

  • There isn't a lot we can do (pronoun)
    There isn't much we can do (pronoun)

  • There isn't a lot of time left.
    There isn't much time left.

  • A lot of fun was had by all.
    Much fun was had by all. (formal)

  • A lot of money was spent on buying drinks.
    Much money was spent on drinks. (formal)

The authoritative Advanced Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings says:

screenshot of Unit 50, Advanced Grammar in Use

In affirmative sentences we generally use a lot of and lots (of) rather than much (of) and many (of), particularly in informal contexts. However, there are a number of exceptions–
In formal contexts, such as academic writing, much (of) and many (of) are often preferred. […]

  • Much debate has been heard about Thornton's new book
  • Much of her fiction describes women in unhappy marriages

In formal contexts we can use much and many as pronouns:

  • There is no guarantee she will recover. Much depends on how well she responds to treatment.

From Wiktionary we also have the following examples

  1. They set about the task with much enthusiasm. (also a lot of enthusiasm)
  2. Add this much water and no more (this much is indicating a specific quantity, without changing the meaning it is not replaceable by “a lot of”.)
  3. Take as much time as you like. (also: as long as)
  4. I have much hope for the future. (In this instance, much is modifying the uncountable noun hope)
  5. I have much need for a new assistant.
  6. He left her, much to the satisfaction of her other suitor. (In this instance, much to is not replaceable by a lot of)
  7. From those to whom much has been given, much is expected. (Luke 12:48)

The Biblical quote was the inspiration for John F Kennedy's famous line

For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us–recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state–our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions…

All the affirmative sentences with much are grammatical, and they will sound formal to native speakers. But in everyday speech and informal writing, the expressions a lot (of)–and even more informal–lots (of), will usually be preferred.

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Cambridge states that

We use much with singular uncountable nouns:

  • I haven’t got much change.
  • There is much concern about drug addiction in the US.

Here, debate is used as an uncountable noun, to mean debating.

Much of comes in handy, but in these situations:

When we use much or many before articles (a/an, the), demonstratives (this, that), possessives (my, your) or pronouns (him, them), we need to use of: Claude, the seventeenth-century French painter, spent much of his life in Italy.

That's why even the set phrase not much of a includes the article a:

  • not much of a problem
  • not much of a career.

So yes, you can use much in this way.

Here are some examples:

  • The study of myth continues to cause much debate among classicists. (The Times Literary Supplement, 2012)
  • This week there has been much debate about metal detectors in schools. (Times, Sunday Times, 2014) (Collins)

Ngram shows that much debate is more common than much of debate: enter image description here

-1

Are there rules against it? No.

Is it a common usage? also no. It is a stylistic choice you can make. If you are a songwriter who's trying to fit your lyrics into a certain meter people will understand what you are singing.

But that "of" in "much of" does a lot of work in keeping the text readable. Unless you have a specific reason to omit it I'd always go for "much of"

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    I have run "Ngram" with several examples and the versions without "of" seem much more frequent...?
    – user167304
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 8:47
  • Interesting! did you test the whole string?
    – Borgh
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 9:49
  • I took out the predicate and tested various versions of "Much x" vs. "Much of x". It would be great if someone could elaborate on the difference between both expressions.
    – user167304
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 10:40
  • You suggest that "much of" must be used to keep the text readable. However, according to Kate Bunting's answer, "much of" is only to be used when the statement refers to a particular category of sth. Who's right?
    – user167304
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 15:59
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    Language is a thing of consensus, you can never be right or wrong. However, people seem to disagree with me so I am apparently the minority here. So if you follow the majority opinion, go with Kate's answer.
    – Borgh
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:39

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