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I have a question about using "as much [...] as", because I can't figure out how much is supposed to go inside the brackets.

I'm wearing sun screen to cover up as much [surface sun rays might hit] as possible."

I'm covering up with sun screen as much [area sun rays might hit] as possible."

Well, I'm not sure if these examples make sense, but these are what I told my friends this morning. With longer sentences, I'm just not sure how much information I should insert inside the brackets.

I guess phrases like "I'll eat 'as much as' possible" or "I'll clean up 'as much as' I can" are simple enough since I don't really have to put anything inside the brackets.

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    I don't think I've ever put anything inside of square brackets after as much. It's certainly not an established form or anything. I would suggest not trying to do it at all. I'm wearing sun screen to cover as much of my exposed skin as possible. – Jim Apr 19 '13 at 0:27
  • @Jim You just did though; "I'm wearing sunscreen to cover as much [of my exposed skin] as possible." It's fine to put something there, just in the OP's example they're using countable nouns (sun rays) which ought to go with "many". (If you mean that the square bracket character itself shouldn't actually be in the final sentence, I'm pretty sure the OP knows that and is just using it to offset the text in question.) – WendiKidd Apr 19 '13 at 1:00
  • @WendiKidd- I interpreted OPs question as using literal square brackets. I did not use square brackets- you put them there in my quote. If I had wanted to add something parenthetical I would have used parentheses. If OP meant he's not sure what kind of phrase to put in place of the square bracketed ellipsis then I completely misunderstood his question. I guess what threw me was the use of "how much is supposed to go inside the brackets" rather than "what kind of phrase is supposed to go between the as much and the ending as. – Jim Apr 19 '13 at 2:53
  • @Jim I know, I was using the square brackets in your quote to show the place between the two parts of the phrase, just as the OP was. I was just trying to explain what I thought the OP was trying to get across; I understand why you would have been confused. Apologies for any misunderstanding! – WendiKidd Apr 19 '13 at 20:58
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You can definitely add words in between as much and as. In your simplified examples where nothing goes between them, it's because the words are implied:

I'll eat as much (food) as (it is) possible (to eat).

I'll clean up as much (of the mess) as I can.

There are two problems with your sun screen examples: 1) the phrasing inside the brackets is awkward and doesn't sound right to a native speaker 2) you're using much with countable nouns (sun rays) when you must instead use many.

A proper way to say this using as much as could be:

I'm wearing sun screen to cover up as much of my skin as possible.

  • How about this? "I'm covering up my sofa as much [areas my cat might scratch] as possible because I don't want it to be ruined." Oh...I still think it sounds awkward but I tried to come up with another one, so please take a look. – jess Apr 19 '13 at 2:01
  • This is all true, but I suspect OP's problem is that he's unaware of the idiomatically commonplace "I'm wearing sun screen to protect my skin as much as possible." Which doesn't really have specifically to do with the amount of skin covered by cream. It's just about maximising the effects of the verb protect - which in this case happens to have an object (my skin) that could be (but in fact isn't) quantified. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 19 '13 at 2:02
  • @jess: For the kind of "literal" meanings you're trying to express, native speakers would more likely say "I'm covering up as much of my sofa as possible because I don't want it to be ruined." That means you're maximising the area covered up. Your version means you're maximising the "protection", which might simply mean putting very thick covers on the few parts your cat is likely to scratch, but not bothering at all about the rest because it's irrelevant to the protection (which is what you're trying to make as much as possible). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 19 '13 at 2:07
  • @jess FumbleFingers has got it. As a side note, there's also the problem of countable nouns again; you can count areas, so you must use many, not much. Still, even if you say many it sounds awkward, and you should follow the advice in FumbleFingers' second comment! – WendiKidd Apr 19 '13 at 2:17
  • @jess If you wanted to write the sofa sentence more in keeping with your original format, you wouldn't use "as much as", but you could say: I'm covering up as many areas of my sofa as possible because I don't want my cat to scratch it and ruin it. – WendiKidd Apr 19 '13 at 2:46

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