1

As I understood from the internet, "of" is compulsory with pronouns ("a good many of us") and with possessives ("a great many of Damon's roles").
But I need your help about the rest:


Is "of" compulsory in the construction "a good/great many of + noun phrase + relative clause" ?
For instance:

englishforums.com:
(1) A great many of the people who bought an iPod had other MP3 players beforehand. — the link says (1) is correct
my variant:
(2) A great many people who bought an iPod had other MP3 players beforehand. — Is (2) correct?


Is "of" optional in other cases?
For instance:

two examples from englishforums.com:
(3) We’ve lived here for a good many of years. — the link says (3) is correct
(4) We’ve lived here for a good many years. — the link says (4) is correct

thefreedictionary.com:
(5) A good many of the workers had the flu. — the link says (5) is correct
my variant:
(6) A good many workers had the flu. — as far as I understand, (6) is correct too

wordreference.com:
(7) A great many of the students had arrived by the time the rain began. — the link says (7) is correct
my variant:
(8) A great many students had arrived by the time the rain began. — as far as I understand, (8) is correct too

3
  • To my American English ear, 3 sounds flat wrong. All the others are fine. Oct 18, 2023 at 10:54
  • The same to my British ear. Oct 18, 2023 at 16:24
  • Your example 3 is the only one that's wrong because it's the only one which has just "of" and not "of the". This sentence is grammatically correct (though semantically awkward, but that's a tangent): "We’ve lived here for a good many of the years." The link is wrong, and I'd either fix (3) or remove both (3) and (4) from your question because the error is a distraction from what you're really asking.
    – gotube
    Oct 18, 2023 at 18:28

1 Answer 1

2

Fantastic question! You've stumbled onto something complex and interesting. I'll try and peel back the layers.

First, let's start with simpler example phrases:

one worker

Easy, just a quantifier and a noun phrase.

Now, let's insert "of", and see how the meaning and grammar both change:

one of the workers

"Of" indicates that the quantifier refers to a subset of the following noun phrase. To be semantically correct, this noun phrase must either be defined in the context, or already understood by the speaker and listener.

So, "of" can be left out only if the noun phrase refers to an already understood group or amount of something. For instance, if we were talking about a specific workplace, then "workers" clearly means "the workers who work at this workplace", so my two phrases above would have exactly the same meaning. But if there was no context, "one worker" is a simple noun phrase and "one of the workers" is an incomplete concept because I don't know which workers you mean.

In your sentences 6 and 8, the meaning of "workers" and "students" isn't specified. So, if it's not clear from the context which workers and students are being referred to, then those sentences have ambiguous meanings, while their counterparts 5 and 7 have clear meanings. And on the other hand, if it is clear in the context which workers and students are referred to, then they are identical, and "of" is optional.

In your examples 1 and 2, the noun phrase is defined by a defining relative clause. This means that it necessarily refers to a subset of that specific noun phrase, so those two sentences are both correct, and have the exact same meaning.


That's the end of my answer, but to be complete, I'll also address 3 and 4.

3 is wrong, a simple mistake by the person who answered that question. Grammatically correct, it would read:

We've lived here for a good many of the years.

This is still semantically wrong because nobody knows which years "the years" refers to, so to fix that, we need to define them:

We've lived here for a good many of the years that we've been married.

4 is correct and natural.

4
  • I disagree with you 3 correction.
    – Lambie
    Oct 18, 2023 at 21:35
  • @Lambie My first version or the second one?
    – gotube
    Oct 18, 2023 at 22:18
  • This one: We've lived here for a good many of the years.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2023 at 13:49
  • @Lambie What's wrong with it? Did you notice the sentence after it where I say it's not entirely correct, and then I fix it properly?
    – gotube
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:19

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