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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 at 10:39

1 Answer 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, 2016 at 9:13
  • @Chosky: Yes, exactly.
    – ruakh
    Apr 8, 2016 at 14:03

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