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Examples:

I can't do much for that.
There is too much to be done.

At first I assumed there is an omitted noun after "much"? But the possible applicable nouns I knew, such as "works", or "anti-measures", are countable. So if one of them is the omitted noun, the phrase should be "do many" instead.

So I thought "much" should be an adverb modifying the verb "do". But in this case, the construction "too much to be done" seemed strange, and I'm not exactly sure whether it is grammatical.

Looking up at the dictionary, it says that "much" is also a noun itself, which should be the case in these examples. But still, I can't seem to get rid of the implications of the two above explanations.

The question

If it continues to say exactly how much is to be done, it's likely it would list something countable, say task A and task B. So in this example:

There is too much to be done, such as task A and task B.

Is it correct, and natural to native speakers?

Under my first understanding of "do much", the adjective "much" doesn't match the noun "task". Under my second understanding, the listed tasks sound unrelated to "much to be done". Both of them seemed weird to me.

And this expression hides the problem a bit:

There is too much to be done, such as doing task A and task B.

But to me it's likely just an unnecessary obfuscation.

And if it is wrong or not natural, how to express this idea correctly?

  • 2
    "Much" is a degree determiner which normally only occurs in NPs with non-count nouns as in I don't have much money where "much" is determiner and "money is head of the NP. But in your examples it's a 'fused determiner head' where the (unstated) head of the NP is 'fused' with determiner "much", so we understand I can't do much x for that, where the value of "x" is derived from context, e.g. I can't do much good for that. Same with There is too much to be done = There is too much x to be done, where the value of x is derivable from context, e.g. there is too much work to be done. – BillJ Feb 15 '16 at 16:09
  • @BillJ That looks like an answer cunningly disguised as a comment. – Araucaria Feb 15 '16 at 16:19
  • @BillJ That looks like the answer cunningly disguised as a comment. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 15 '16 at 17:20
  • @BillJ Would you mind expanding it to an answer? – user23013 Feb 15 '16 at 18:13
  • @ user23013 Done, with slightly improved wording, but still brief! – BillJ Feb 15 '16 at 18:44
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You use much here because there isn't any noun after the word much.

For example, the following would also be correct:

There are too many tasks to be done, such as task A and task B.

However, now there are things we can explicitly count, namely tasks.

Without the noun, we can't count it and we can also see that we use the singular form of the verb to be, namely the form is.

  • So, can I concatenate the "too much" and "such as" together as in the example? Or is it the case that, if I know it is going to be counted, I must say explicitly that there are "too many tasks"? – user23013 Feb 15 '16 at 15:13
  • As in: "There is too much, such as task A and task B."? It doesn't sound very good to me, but I think it is a valid sentence. "There is too much to do, such as task A and task B." sounds a lot better. – wythagoras Feb 15 '16 at 15:28
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"Much" is a degree determiner which typically occurs in NPs with non-count nouns, as in I don't have much money where "much" is determiner and "money" is head of the NP. But in your examples, it's a 'fused determiner-head' where the (unstated) head of the NP is 'fused' with determiner "much" so that that the single word "much" is understood as "much x". Your first example is thus interpreted as I can't do much x for that, where the value of "x" is derived from the context, e.g. I can't do much good for that.

The same applies with your other example: There is too much to be done is interpreted as There is too much x to be done, where the value of "x" is again derivable from the context, e.g. There is too much work to be done.

  • But in my next example it seemed to be saying: There is too much work, such as the two tasks. Can I say that? While the grammar is clearer, I'm even less sure about whether this is acceptable. – user23013 Feb 15 '16 at 19:11

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