This is from the BBC Tomato shortage

"Tomato shortage: How far is Brexit to blame?"

At first I could not quite decide what exactly the question is focusing on. I thought people have not yet understood that the problem was actually caused by Brexit, so it still seems a little bit far away for people to come to understand it.

However, as I read, I understood that the text was trying to reveal *how much of the problem (tomato shortage) is caused by the Brexit.

Then I start to think about the question and I tried to adapt it to find out the share of someone in any problem in daily life. As a non-native speaker, if I was to form a question to find out "how much is someone - amongst others- can be held responsible for a problem, I would not be able to form the sentence by using "how far".

I would probably form the sentence like one of these;

"How much of the blame is on him?" or

"To what extent can he be blamed?" or

"How much of it is because of him?" or

But since I am a non-native speaker, I can not decide whether or not these would be as idiomatic as "How far is he to blame?"

Would they be? Or Is "How far is he to blame?" the only way to ask about it in an idiomatic way?

  • 4
    Hi. These are all perfectly acceptable and idiomatic in the UK at least. I think you have understood it well. How far is Brexit to blame? means the same as How much/to what extent is Brexit to blame? However "how far" and "to what extent" are a little more formal than the "how much" example.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 12:14
  • I agree with @BillyKerr although there are subtleties: some of those are generally informal ("he fouled up") while others are more formal ("he's being sued for fouling up"). Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


"How far is he to blame" actually sounds weird to this American, though it's a valid if dated form that still sees some use.

Some of your rephrasings flow a little better in casual speech than others, but all of them are fine. I'd add "How much is he to blame?" and "How much can he be blamed?" into the mix: in short, it's not a fixed idiom and can be varied in all the ways you've tried and more.

A subtlety of meaning, however: most of these ask how much he should be blamed, while "How much of the blame is on him?" can be used the same way but more literally asks how much he has been blamed by others, regardless of whether he's at fault.

  • 2
    'How far is something or someone to blame' is quite normal in the UK but rather 'educated' or 'academic'. Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 9:14

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