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What is the main difference between these sentences:

  • To your surprise, he is alive.
  • Much to your surprise, he is alive.

Is much only used to emphasize your surprise?

Can I have a conversation with a buddy like this?

— You tried to kill your husband last night?
— Yup, I think he is dead.
Much to your surprise, he is alive.
— Oh.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

"Much" is added for emphasis here.

It's normal to say "Much to my surprise" (which means "I {am/was} very surprised"), but not at all idiomatic to say "Much to your surprise". For that, you'd say "You'd say something like "You'll be surprised to {hear/learn/know} that he's still alive".

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Much to his surprise is also common. Much to your surprise is uncommon because we usually do not directly tell others what their emotional reaction was, although we routinely relate our own or third persons reactions. – bib Feb 8 '13 at 12:47
@bib: We usually don't, but most of us grew up with parents who were certain that they had to right to tell us not only what we felt, but also what we believed. I did, at any rate. – user21497 Feb 8 '13 at 12:52
I gave you a +1 even though you are resentful. And you know it! – bib Feb 8 '13 at 13:06
@bib: I'm afraid that I don't understand your criticism. I upvoted your comment because I agree with what you said: We do routinely relate our own & 3rd persons' reactions but not 2nd persons' reactions. I don't think that in my comment I expressed any resentment about my parents' telling me what I felt & what I believed. I was relating a personal factoid. At 70, I don't much care what they did when I was a kid, but I did stop confiding in my mother when she started telling me what I believed. I guess that when I was a troubled teenager, I was resentful when told I didn't know what I believed. – user21497 Feb 8 '13 at 13:39
@bib: By the way, I liked your Shakespeare imitation very much. I liked the other commentor's too. I was looking for it a few minutes ago to add this comment, but I couldn't find it. – user21497 Feb 8 '13 at 13:41

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