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Yes, I know there is a related question here. But that doesn't answer my question.

For each of the following phrases, are they correct?
If not, why not?

What is the OF doing? What part of speech is it? What role does it play in the phrase/sentence? Is there a technical name for this role?

  • somewhat/somewhat of (with a/the)

    a. Joe's somewhat a/the philospher.
    b. Joe's somewhat of a/the philospher.

  • much/much of (with a/the)

    c. Do you know if Sam's much a poker player?
    d. Do you know if Sam's much of a poker player?

    e. Do you know if Sam's much the poker player?
    f. Do you know if Sam's much of the poker player?

  • much/much of

    g. There's much the wolf in you.
    h. There's much of the wolf in you.

  • not much / not much of

    i. I'm not much a writer.
    j. I'm not much of a writer.

  • much/much of (money)

    k. Much money is on the table.
    m. Much of the money is on the table.

  • much/much of (time)

    n. I spend much time on my homework.
    p. I spend much of the time on my homework.

  • much / much of a (difference)

    q. There is much difference between Syndey and Vancouver.
    r. There is much of a difference between Syndey and Vancouver.

  • not much difference / not much of a difference

    s. There's not much difference between Syndey and Vancouver.
    t. There's not much of a difference between Syndey and Vancouver.

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  • 2
    I've renumbered the examples (missing out L and O) to make reference easier, but I think there are rather too many questions here. Something approaching a general rule might be possible, perhaps.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 23 '14 at 15:51
  • 1
    It seems to me that a–j illustrate one use of "much (of)", k–p represent a quite different use of "much (of)", and q–t are still another use. Jun 23 '14 at 21:46
  • @PeterShor Yeah, maybe so. Plus I thought of another salient example: You've got much of your mother in you. And also, I realize that in some of the uses, such other words as some can be substituted for much and not change the question about the use of of.
    – pazzo
    Jun 25 '14 at 14:48
  • @FumbleFingers Is it possible a bounty can be put on this question? I have only 101 points myself, so it is impratical for me to do so.
    – pazzo
    Jun 28 '14 at 17:54
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    @ user78616: I wonder if some people glanced at it and thought "What's with all those examples? Looks like homework!". Or maybe there's a degree of prejudice towards users who don't supply anything more memorable than the standard 5-digit "duplicate buster" for a User-ID. If I were you I'd change that to something that identifies you more as a real person (but that's just me, because I am! :) Jun 28 '14 at 18:25
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+50

The rule is that "of" is used between quantifying determiners and non-quantifying determiners. So if you want to combine words like "much", "many", "few", "either", etc., with articles, demonstratives, or possessives like "the", "my", "those", etc., you will put "of" between them.

If a native speaker doesn't, which may sometimes sound natural in certain dialects, then the "of" is implied.

There is no technical term for this role that I'm aware of. "Of" is always a preposition.

You should be able to go through your list with this rule in mind and figure out for yourself what does and doesn't work.

Edit: I was just looking for some reference material to back up this answer and found mention that the word "all" is an exception to the rule. Both these sentences work:

I spent all my money.

I spent all of my money.

I found this, along with support for the above, mentioned here:

Basic English Grammar, Book 2 By Howard Sargean

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  • Right. The relations of quantifiers and other determiners in the determiner phrase are complex and irregular; there's a great deal of idiomaticity and strange syntax. Just as there is with modals and negatives, the other two semantic Operators. Jun 30 '14 at 18:04
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a. Joe's somewhat a philospher. | This means, "Joe's a philosopher, partially." It's correct, technically, but not a common construction.

a (part II). Joe's somewhat the philosopher. | This means, "Joe belongs partly to the philosopher archetype."

b. Joe's somewhat of a/the philospher.

This is something of an idiomatic phrasing. Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary says,

Used to describe a person or thing in a way that is partly true but not completely or exactly|

It came as something of a surprise.

He has a reputation as something of a troublemaker.

I have a biology question for you - I gather you're something of an expert.

c. Do you know if Sam's much a poker player? | Nope. You can say "much water" because "water" is a mass noun (as opposed to a countable noun,) but you can't say "much a poker player" because "a poker player" isn't a mass noun.

d. Do you know if Sam's much of a poker player? | Sure. Adding "of" means you're dealing with fractions of player, not a single player, and fractions are continuous (though not in quite the same way decimals are,) not discrete, more like a mass.

e. Do you know if Sam's much the poker player? | Sure. This asks if Sam is or is not a standard poker player. It's like liote in question form.

f. Do you know if Sam's much of the poker player? | Nope. "The poker player" could refer to a specific player, in which case it wouldn't make sense for Sam to be much of him or her. It could also refer to the poker player archetype (not generally an archetype I think of!)

g. There's much the wolf in you. | Nope. I'm rejecting this because, even though you could say there's an implicit "of," it's a little too much processing to add both an "of" and parse "the wolf" as an archetype instead of a literal wolf. It's really a stretch unless you have more context, so I'd say this is shaky at best.

h. There's much of the wolf in you. | Sure. This means you ate your fill of the wolf, or that you strongly exemplify the characteristics associated with the archetypical wolf.

i. I'm not much a writer. | Sure. This is a little strange, but the "of" is implicit.

j. I'm not much of a writer. | Sure. This either means you write only a little, or it's a litote that means you are a bad writer.

k. Much money is on the table. | Sure. This means exactly what it sounds like.

m. Much of the money is on the table. | Sure. This means a large part of, but not all of, the money is there.

n. I spend much time on my homework. | Sure. This means you are studious.

p. I spend much of the time on my homework. | Sure. This is like n, but "much of the time" expresses the time you spend not just as a lump sum, but as a portion of a whole.

q. There is much difference between Syndey and Vancouver. | Probably not. This should be, "There are many differences between Sydney and Vancouver." Using "difference" as a mass noun is a bit of a stretch.

r. There is much of a difference between Syndey and Vancouver. | Nope. This would mean, "There is most of a single difference between Sydney and Vancouver," which is probably not what you mean. If, for some reason, you did mean that, you could make it clear by saying, "There is part of a difference," or, "There is much of a single difference."

s. There's not much difference between Syndey and Vancouver. | Sure. This means there is some difference, but it is not appreciable.

t. There's not much of a difference between Syndey and Vancouver. | Sure. This means there is a small difference, but not a significant difference.

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