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For example, "How much" or "What" is your chess rating? Which one is correct? Also, can I say "You may improve your chess rating by winning games." or "You may lower your chess rating by losing games."?

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Let's first address your last two examples:

  • You may improve (increase/raise) your chess rating by winning games.

  • You may (decrease/lower) your chess rating by losing games.

These are both grammatically correct. Some of us might prefer "could" or "can" rather than may", but others of us might not, lest we imply that the hearer is capable of winning more games.

As for "how much " vs. "what", that depends on whether the rating is on a point system. If it is numeric, you can ask "what" OR "how much", but if it is non-numeric, you can only ask "what", not "how much".

However, in chess there are (numeric) ratings, (ordinal) rankings, and (named) titles. For example, one player might have a rating of 2400, have a title of Grandmaster, and be ranked 4th among females under 21.

So you could ask "How much is her rating? What is her title? What is her ranking (or how does she rank)?"

So, speaking of "increasing": I would say increase your rating, improve your ranking, or attain a higher title by winning more games.

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    I'd disagree with the use of 'how much' when enquiring about a numeric value. "How much is it's weight?", "How much did they score?", "How much is his IQ?". These all sound wrong. – Steve Ives Jun 22 '15 at 10:56
  • @SteveIves, A native American wouldn't say "What is your weight?" – Lucian Sava Jun 22 '15 at 11:51
  • You'd say "What does it/do you weigh?", "What did they score", "What is your IQ". – Steve Ives Jun 22 '15 at 11:55
  • @SteveIves, I'm not sure but I think it depends on each particular context. – Lucian Sava Jun 22 '15 at 12:02
  • Since ranking is a relative measure, you can also ask, "Where does she rank?", which can be answered specifically("She's ranked 4th") or generally ("She's ranked in the top 25%") – Jeremy Nottingham Jun 22 '15 at 13:30
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'Rating' in this context is a measure of how good you are e.g. "Messi is often rated as the best football player in the world.". It may have an actual, measurable figure (in golf, rating is expressed as 'handicap'; Tennis uses 'ranking').

It can be used as a noun or a verb e.g.

"How do you rate England's chances in the World Cup?"

"What's Ronnie O' Sullivan's snooker rating?"

"I see he's moved up the chess ratings with that victory."

In the first example, 'rate' is used as a verb, meaning "How well do you think they will do?". In the second, 'rating' refers to his individual rating or measure of his skill and in the third, 'ratings' refers to a table of all the players ratings and the fact the he is higher in the table now, as his individual rating has increased.

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  • In English there is also a slang usage where to 'rate' something means it is good and to 'not rate' something means it is bad. E.g. "I really rate Murray's chances at Wimbledon" (I think he'll do well), "Hi-Fi Magazine didn't rate these headphones for sound quality" (they think the sound quality is poor). This second example is not to be confused with ""Hi-Fi Magazine haven't rated these headphones for sound quality" which just means that they haven't yet given them a rating. – Steve Ives Jun 22 '15 at 9:18
  • Excellent answer! But it could have been much better had it addressed to the OP's particular concern.:-) – Lucian Sava Jun 22 '15 at 10:40
  • Yeah - just realised that. From his question title, I though he wanted the meaning of 'rating'. – Steve Ives Jun 22 '15 at 10:53
  • This doesn't answer the question at all. In the question, a "rating" is a number, which serves as a measure of skill. – David Richerby Jun 22 '15 at 13:26
  • A rating doesn't have to be a number - it can be 'stars' (e.g. from 1 to 5 stars), a word from "bad, average, good", a martial arts belt colour etc. Chess was just an example. – Steve Ives Jun 22 '15 at 13:34

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