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This area of science as complicated as it is.

What does it mean? All instances I have found on the Internet have something at the end, e.g. "Buying gifts for men isn't nearly as complicated as it is for women," "It isn't even a quarter as complicated as it is made out to be."

May I suggest that in my sentence it means that the area of science is complicated but it's because it has to be this complicated, by no means we can make it simpler.

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    Are you sure you have the full quote? That looks like a fragment: "This area of science, as complicated as it is, ..." – J.R. Jul 19 '13 at 10:47
  • Probably not, I was listening and made a note. If you're saying that this usage is incorrect, so it is. – Graduate Jul 19 '13 at 10:53
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    Even that tidbit of information is important, and I'd recommend including it in the question (something like: "I was taking notes while a speaker was talking, and I think that's what I heard.") No need to update this question, but it's a practice I'd keep in mind for the future. – J.R. Jul 19 '13 at 18:28
  • I think unless it's edited, this question is unclear. The sentence fragment as given lacks context, so any possible meaning is just opinion-based speculation. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 2 '13 at 21:49
  • I think what you must have heard is this: "This area of science is complicated as it is." If that is so, that's a complete sentence. – Mohit Aug 7 '13 at 9:49
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As J.R. says, this is a fragment as it stands.

Perhaps what you heard was

This area of science is complicated as it is.

As it is means as things presently stand or in the current circumstances when it modifies an entire clause:

As it is, we're going to lose money this month.

When it modifies a noun or (noun phrase) it means in its present state

The business community, as it is, is nervous.

In this particular case it modifies complicated. That is a "predicate adjective" which in effect modifies the subject, area of science, so the it in as it is refers to that subject: the phrase bears the second sense, in its present state

This area of science is complicated in its present state.

Very likely the speaker is addressing a new discovery or approach which makes this area of science even more complicated than it is now.

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  • Suppose a mathematician shows me a theorem from some area of mathematics, and he proves it. Everything is very complex. And he says -- "This area of mathematics is complicated as it is." Does he mean that all the theorems in that area are complicated, that what he showed me fully represents the whole? – Graduate Jul 19 '13 at 11:39
  • @Graduate No, because in that sentence it can only refer to this area of mathematics. He would say "This entire area of mathematics is as complicated as that is." – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 19 '13 at 12:19
  • OK, as it is means in its present state, in other words now. Why do I have to say three words if I can say just now? Is there a difference in the meanings they convey? – Graduate Jul 19 '13 at 12:36
  • @Graduate It's not just now, it's as it is now. That is your speaker uses this more emphatic version to contrast the existing complication with the even greater complication which his new approach/discovery/understanding introduces. "It's already complicated, now I'm going to make it even more complicated." – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 19 '13 at 14:39
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    @Graduate Exactly. You have mastered it. – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 19 '13 at 15:25
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I'm guessing the complete quote was similar to one of these:

This area of science, as complicated as it is, ...

As complicated as this area of science is, ...

In this case, the sentence carries the same meaning as:

This area of science is complicated, but...

While this area of science is complicated, ...

In other words, before you make your statement, you first admit that the area of science is complicated, and that you are making your statement despite this condition. It is likely that the second part of the sentence suggested something to the contrary, for instance:

This area of science, as complicated as it is, can be taught quite easily.

In this example, you are stating that this area of science is easy to teach. This suggests that it is not complicated, however, which is false. You want to make sure that your audience does not misunderstand your statement; that you are not denying the fact that it is complicated.

Here is a different example:

This drink, as horrible as it looks, is quite delicious.

I am telling my audience that this drink tastes good. However, it does not look that way, maybe because the drink has an ugly colour. Before they can say "But it looks horrible!", I qualify my statement by saying "as horrible as it looks". This is like saying, "Yes, I know this drink looks horrible, but even so, it is actually quite delicious."

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    One other possibility I considered: "This area of science is as complicated as it gets," meaning, it's highly complicated, and few things are more complicated. – J.R. Jul 19 '13 at 18:26
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I largely agree with StoneyB, but I think he's missing one key point. When we say "X, as Y as it is ...", we usually follow it with some sort of counterpoint. That is, we follow it by saying something that might seem paradoxical or contradictory to the stated property.

For example:

This area of science, as complicated as it is, nevertheless can be understood by the average high school student if it is explained properly.

Or:

Senator Jones, as powerful as he is now, will be ruined once I tell the press about this bribe he took.

The counterpoint could be to say "even more" rather than "less" or "despite":

Our company, rich as it is, will be even richer when this new product hits the market.

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  • All StoneyB's explanation was targeted, as I understand, at the usage of "is X as it is." He regards these forms ("as X as it is" and "is X as it is") as different types. – Graduate Jul 19 '13 at 16:19
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There is actually no need for the first 'as', but that form has crept in and is now quite widely used. I believe it would be better and less cumbersome to say: 'The area of science, complicated as it is, can nevertheless be...' as in the 'Our company, rich as it is...' example.

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