The very beginning sentence of an IELTS essay, said to have achieved the full band score, reads:

  1. Perhaps no subject in the world is as likely to cause so much controversy as advertising does.

I thought it would be better to say either:

  1. Perhaps no subject in the world is as likely to cause so much controversy as advertising is. [rather than does]


  1. Perhaps no subject in the world is likely to cause as much controversy as advertising does.

To clarify, I'd like to know if the first sentence is alright the way it is, or needs some emendation; Plus, I'd like to learn if the second and the third changes are acceptable, or why, if not. Thanks.

  • 2
    The choice between as much and so much here is primarily a matter of stylistic preference, and is completely unconnected to the matter of whether to explicitly add a verb at the end. Most native speakers would probably "delete" the final verb anyway, without even thinking about which specific preceding verb it could have been (either would be perfectly okay). Oct 31, 2014 at 16:42
  • 1
    Regarding sentence 2: The verb at the end, "is," is problematic. In this usage you would be discussing the controversy that advertising is causing right now, as an event that is occurring at the time of the statement. "No child on Earth is as likely to cause as many problems as my daughter is." This means that my daughter is causing problems at this point in time. If instead I use "does," the sentence means that she causes problems habitually. In your sentences that seems like a far more likely usage if you decide to keep the verb at the end. Oct 31, 2014 at 17:59
  • If I've got it right, leaving does at the end sounds better than is @Jason?
    – Itsme
    Oct 31, 2014 at 20:59
  • @Itsme In general, yes. If what you're discussing is something that has occurred in the past and is likely to continue occurring in the future with the same effect, then you would use does. In the case where you wanted to discuss something that was occurring at this point in time specifically, then you would use is. Nov 1, 2014 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


You are quite right. Sentence #1 has infelicitously married two comparative constructions, as...as and so...as and compelled them to share the same second as, although this has to govern two different complements.

Both rewrites should, properly, have other before subject; and the terminal verb is not required in either.

One of these is meant:

Perhaps no other subject is as likely to cause controversy  
                             as advertising [is likely to cause controversy] 

Perhaps no other subject is likely to cause so much controversy  
                                            as      advertising [causes/is likely to cause].

Perhaps no other subject is as likely 
                                                       to cause so much controversy.
                            as advertising [is likely] 
  • Surely we could just as well postulate the "extended" form as "...as advertising causes", which naturally "reduces" to "...as advertising does [cause]" (the speaker might take it for granted that advertising isn't just likely to cause controversy - it indisputably does). I can't say I see OP's usage as "infelicitous" though. Nor can I see any absolute right/wrong distinction between using as or so in either of the first two positions. The last one always has to be as, obviously - but surely each of the other two can be either, according to personal preference. Oct 31, 2014 at 16:57
  • @FumbleFingers Fersher; that's a variant of my second one, and I've rewritten accordingly ... but you've still got two first terms, as likely to cause and so much controversy sharing the same second term, as advertising _, so something has to give: either as#1 or so has to go, or so has to have an external referent, a previously-named amount of controversy. Oct 31, 2014 at 17:11
  • Yeah - there are several ways of rephrasing, and I quite agree mine was a variant of your second one even before the edit. But the as/so choice seems semantically irrelevant here, and I'm inclined to see only two possible meanings. They're disambiguated in OP's first two examples by which explicit verb you choose to include, but I've just realised your second rephrasing achieves the same effect by not having the first as (which forces comparison with that much controversy, rather than that much likelihood). Oct 31, 2014 at 20:27

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