4

There is a task from a textbook to choose the correct alternative in this sentence:

Does a great deal/considerably wider accessibility inevitably mean a decline in the quest for serious reflection and deeper understanding?"

I know that the correct answer is considerably, but I have no idea what's wrong with a great deal. And not even sure it actually is wrong.

Attached grammar gives the following information:

We can use the following words to intensify and modify comparatives:

considerably/far/much/a lot/a great deal more/less interesting than

I've checked internet, different dictionaries and grammars, but still don't know why a great deal is inappropriate in this case. I've also asked few native speakers and they confirmed that a great deal actually seems to be inappropriate.

So could anyone, please, explain to me why considerably is better in this case?

  • Is "considerably" more official than "a great deal" ? It looks more official to me – bantandor Mar 18 '16 at 9:56
  • I bet it's collocation: considerably + wider VS great deal + wider The former is more popular. As to "why", no idea, but considerably is perhaps a touch more formal. Is this exercise aimed at CAE/Advanced/IELTS 8? – Mari-Lou A Mar 18 '16 at 10:22
  • great deal + taller 2,160 results on Google Books compared to 14,800 results for considerably + taller This might help explain why "considerably" is considered the correct answer, but I'd say it's fairer to say it is the "more appropriate" answer. – Mari-Lou A Mar 18 '16 at 10:27
  • The problem is the construction of this particular sentence, which uses a comparative adjective as opposed to the comparative structure 'more/less _____ than" that you found in your research. Something can BE a great deal wider, but your question would need to be worded, 'Does HAVING a great deal wider accessibility inevitably mean...?' or 'Is a great deal wider accessibility _______?' – Egox Mar 18 '16 at 10:30
  • @Mari-LouA Yes, it's a textbook for CAE. It might depend on region, but "a great deal" is actually formal. – Choksy Mar 18 '16 at 10:39
1

According to the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL), "attributive AdjPs [adjective phrases]" do not permit "prehead NP [noun phrase] modifiers". (See chapter 6, § 3.3, pages 551–2.)

Attributive refers to the common use of adjective phrases inside a noun phrase, preceding the noun that they modify. For example, in "a very short book", very short is an attributive adjective phrase. (Attributive is mostly as opposed to predicative — for example, "the book is very short" contains a predicative adjective phrase — though there also exist some less-common functions that are neither attributive nor predicative, such as in "as short a book as that" and "I want to read something short".)

A "prehead noun phrase modifier" is a noun phrase that precedes and modifies (in this case) an adjective. So in "a great deal wider", a great deal is a prehead noun phrase modifier (modifying wider).

So the problem in your example is that since "a great deal wider" contains a prehead noun phrase modifier, it can't be used in attributive position; *"a great deal wider accessibility" is not grammatical.

(In addition to an example with "a great deal better", CGEL also gives an example with "three years old": we can say "a three-year-old child", and "the child is three years old", but not *"a three years old child". It also gives a counterexample with "(a) lot": "She's a lot better player than me", meaning "She's a player who's a lot better than me." Though personally I find this counterexample pretty questionable; I would never say it that way, anyway.)

I don't know if that really answers your question "why", but at least it should help you understand the rule so you can apply it in the future. I hope that's almost as satisfying. :-)

  • Thank you for your answer. I'd like to make sure that I understood you rightly. "This is a great deal better book" - is wrong, instead I should say "This is a considerably better book". But both "This book is a great deal better" and "This book is considerably better" are correct. Am I right? – Choksy Apr 8 '16 at 9:13
  • @Chosky: Yes, exactly. – ruakh Apr 8 '16 at 14:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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