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They weren’t much concern as long as they didn't catch him.

I don't know what I feel is wrong with using concern here. I think I could change it to:

They weren't much of a concern as long as they didn't catch him.

Or could I since, it's speaking of people as plural and then using the word A implies singular?

I am sure I'm over thinking it. Is it incorrect as it is? Thanks.

  • Can't tell without context. If they refers to a group of people, I'd expect "They weren't much concerned," but that assumes a particular meaning. – deadrat Nov 17 '15 at 23:31
  • They weren't much concern... They being people following him, who did not concern him. – A. Hodges Nov 18 '15 at 0:11
  • Not wrong, I think, but I'd rather word it in a way that makes it clear who is concerned (or not concerned, as the case may be), e.g. "He wasn't concerned [about them] as long as they didn't catch him." – Jeffrey Kemp Nov 18 '15 at 0:21
  • I think "much" is incorrect. "They weren't very concerned as long as they didn't catch him." "They weren't very concerned (about him browsing the Internet at work) as long as they didn't catch him." – LexieLou Nov 18 '15 at 1:34
  • @deadrat I did some looking in dictionaries and concern usually has a determiner such as "a" or "the" or a preposition "of"...if it is a noun...the word "much" seems to change things...in any case, it's ambiguous. – michael_timofeev Nov 18 '15 at 4:29
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The most common usage I have seen for this in American English would be the following mutation of your original sentence:

They weren’t of much concern as long as they didn't catch him.

"of much concern," being the common structure that I've seen.

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I think it's fine. It's saying "they weren't much 'of a' concern" as in, the speaker is obviously doing something or going somewhere that they are not supposed to, and there are people there that would know they should be doing/going whatever/wherever. But the speaker will do/go it/there anyway, and as long as they are not caught, the others do not concern him.

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As deadrat says, without more context it's hard to comment clearly.

Nonetheless, your first version sounds wrong in part because it's ambiguous. The first four words are a principal clause by themselves, but an ungrammatical one (concern is a noun and something acting as an adjective is needed — concerned, perhaps). Thus the first four words misdirect the reader to expect a different construction than you go on to deliver.

The focus of your thought in the sentence is he, not they. So you confuse things by starting as you do. I would use the grammar to reinforce the thought by making the same point but beginning the sentence with he.

  • I agree the sentence is ambiguous...but I don't feel "concerned" should follow..."concern" as a noun can be used but it seems to need "a" or "the" or "of"...were can be followed by a noun. – michael_timofeev Nov 18 '15 at 4:32
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I agree that much is the wrong word (slang possibly) as it is an abbreviation of 'too much' plus wrong usage of the word 'much' 'They were not concerned as long as they did not catch him.' 'There was not much concern as long as they did not....'

But I agree with the usage of 'very' but prefer 'too' 'They were not very concerned as long as they did not catch him.' 'They were not too concerned as long as they did not catch him.'

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