In an essay, a friend used the expression:

It wasn't that bad of an idea.

I think that it would be preferable to write

It wasn't that bad an idea

However, I can't explain why.


Of as a preposition is also:

  • used to indicate an appositive: that idiot of a driver.


  • A noun, noun phrase, or series of nouns placed next to another word or phrase to identify or rename it.


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  • What has that to do with the question at hand? – Kris Aug 21 '14 at 5:18
  • Are you saying the example sentence is correct then? – Mari-Lou A Aug 21 '14 at 5:18
  • Yes, that's what he's saying. that (adj/noun) of a (noun) is an exceptionally common phrasing, but as phrased, it's not going to be the right register for a formal paper. – user0721090601 Aug 21 '14 at 5:32
  • This Google fight link is I think more relevant Is it that bad of an idea? vs.Is it that bad an idea? – Mari-Lou A Aug 21 '14 at 5:36
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    I think OP is asking about the construction 'that bad of a', which appears to be quite frequent. – user66974 Aug 21 '14 at 5:45

I'd avoid the whole problem by using a more simple and direct construction such as "It wasn't such a bad idea."

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The "of" is superfluous and serves no purpose; in a sentence that is already kind of awkward to begin with, adding "of" just adds that much more ambiguity.

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OK, so the original sense is

It is not such a bad idea that condition

But the speaker wishes to omit condition as it goes without saying.

He evidently still wishes to alluding to its existence, otherwise he could just say

It is not such a bad idea.

We evidently need that that that badly. But one cannot say

It is not that a bad idea [NO]

An article after that implies we are starting a relative clause like

It is not that a cat is a bad animal, but ...

So we need to push the article forward. It still must appear before its noun, and moving the noun anywhere else gets weird fast. So we are stuck with

It is not that bad an idea.

This article between the noun and so closely related a word sounds odd. (Note, not of a word, same issue.) So we look around for constructions that allow it, like.

He is a bull of a man.

I am not much of a typist.

These are not parallel formations. The first has two nouns, rather than a noun and an adjective and the other is not a direct modification, as I would never say

I am a much typist. [NO]

But the uncertainty makes people allow for, and forgive the padded construction, even though it is not strictly grammatical. And we end up with

It is not that bad of an idea. [barely OK]

I would call this a minor error, but still an error.

The majority agrees by a good margin: graph

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You cannot use it that way as in that bad of an idea because that bad is not a noun phrase.

You can use it in an adjectival sense implying 'a thing that's that bad:'

It wasn't that bad (for) an idea.

That is, as an idea, it wasn't that bad (adjective).

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    I don't know why you got a downvote so quickly but it might be that you haven't given any backup or provided any references. If you could, it's +1 from me. – Mari-Lou A Aug 21 '14 at 5:19
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    Here's four Ngrams that disagree with your claim that you cannot say "that adjective of" ... books.google.com/ngrams/… – virmaior Aug 21 '14 at 5:49
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    “It’s not that much of a problem” or “It’s not that big of a deal” are both exceedingly common, particularly in (informal) AmE, as is the asker’s quote. Of here does not have the function of linking two noun phrases, and saying you ‘cannot’ use the construction flies in the face of actual language usage. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 21 '14 at 17:36
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    @virmaior But those are different versions of 'fond', since one applies to you and the other to the thing of which you are fond. 'I am not fond of asparagus', is not related to 'fond asparagus'! 'It is not that bad an idea' is related to 'bad idea'. – Jon Jay Obermark Aug 29 '14 at 1:36
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    @JonJayObermark I'm also not really getting where you get the supposition that it makes you sound hickish to say that X of Y. The lack of the "of" sounds grammatically wrong to me or rather like it's the hickish version that suppresses the statement of the of. – virmaior Aug 29 '14 at 6:25

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