English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

How does the meaning differ for the following two sentences?

  1. Even then, the subject seemed as fascinating a problem as there could be.
  2. Even then, the subject seemed as fascinating as a problem could be.
share|improve this question

The first one assumes that there exists a set of finite fascinating problem. The subject, then, is a member of that set of fascinating problem, and is fascinating itself.

The second one does not assume that there is such a set. IT says, however, that the subject is fascinating to the extent of how the problems can be fascinating.

share|improve this answer
There's no assumption that the set of fascinating things is finite: just that there is such a thing as a "most fascinating thing". – Seamus Nov 4 '13 at 12:07
I can concede to that as it will be much easier to explain your way compared to how I stated it :) – gelolopez Nov 4 '13 at 12:27

There's no real difference.

If you put the sentences under a microscope, you could analyze them like this:

 Sentence1  Sentence2
  True       True           The subject seemed to be as fascinating as a problem could be
  True       Unspecified    The subject seemed to be a problem

That is, the second sentence doesn't literally say that the subject seemed to be a problem. But the reader is unlikely to come away with any other impression, so it doesn't really make a difference.

(Unless the context strongly implies otherwise, but we have no context here.)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.