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I came across the following construction in an exercise book written by a non-native speaker of English, who asked the students to replace the word 'much' with a more suitable one:

I know that the furniture of my flat is 'much'.

The first answer came to my thought was 'a lot'. But l feel that the whole construction is not very common in English. Right? I'm sorry if my question seems so silly.

  • You're right. The point of the sentence is to describe how much furniture there is in the flat so usually you would place your adjective before the noun (furniture). For example, I know there is a lot of furniture in my flat. Other phrases could be loads of, a great deal of. – Dan Aug 29 '17 at 10:12
  • @Dan 'A lot of' etc are better classed as quantifiers. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 29 '17 at 10:13
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    A more natural sentence construction using 'much' could be, "I know there is much furniture in my flat", or, "I know that my flat has much furniture" ... although the use of 'much' in those cases has a slightly archaic feel. – ArchContrarian Aug 29 '17 at 13:14
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    ... As a native English speaker I would see the original sentence as confused/ambiguous. Does it imply that the furniture is: excessive in quantity ('too much'); unfitting, garish or otherwise inappropriate ('a bit much'); or just that there is a lot of it ('much furniture'). – ArchContrarian Aug 29 '17 at 13:22
  • I appreciate all your informative and interesting comments. – Mido Mido Aug 29 '17 at 16:18
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You are right - there are various problems with the construction of that sentence. A fluent English speaker would find it confusing and/or awkward.

(In context, I can guess that the intended meaning is, "I know that there is a lot of furniture in my flat". But without the context you gave, I would struggle to understand the original sentence.)

"I know that the furniture of my flat is much", and "I know that the furniture of my flat is a lot", are semantically unclear. This is partly because of word order, and partly because of the various possible idiomatic uses of 'much', and 'a lot'.

In English, a word or phrase that describes the quantity or amount of a thing, is placed before the noun. This is called a quantifier. For example: 'two bits of furniture', 'a lot of furniture', 'many chairs'. http://www.myenglishpages.com/site_php_files/grammar-lesson-quantifiers.php

An adjective (or adjectival phrase) describes the quality of a thing, and goes after '[noun phrase] is'. For example: 'the furniture of my flat is beautiful', 'the furniture is plentiful', 'the furniture is grandiose'.

So, a native English speaker would understand 'much' at the end of the sentence to be describing the quality (rather than than the quantity) of the furniture. She might wonder whether part of a common colloquial phrase had been left out by mistake. Should it actually say that the furniture is: 'too much'; 'a bit much'; or 'much of a muchness'?

"the furniture of my flat is a lot" could also be misunderstood without context. Is it identifying all of the furniture as a single 'lot' for sale in an auction, for example?

[Also, "my flat's furniture", and "the furniture in my flat", are more natural English expressions that "the furniture of my flat"]

  • You make a very good point with your question, "Should it actually say that the furniture is: 'too much'; 'a bit much'; or 'much of a muchness'?". I considered only the possible literal meanings of the original poster's sentence. Colloquial phrases are a minefield for those who are not native speakers of a language and in English, at least, for an alarming number of native speakers too. The example may well contain a failed attempt to use one. +1 – NMI Aug 29 '17 at 14:42
  • Edit: Change, 'I considered only the possible literal meanings of the original poster's sentence', from above to, 'I considered only the obvious meanings of the original poster's sentence'. – NMI Aug 30 '17 at 0:43
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The only word I can think of is plentiful.

"I know that the furniture of my flat is plentiful."

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To keep the same pattern as your example you could write:

  • I know that the furniture of [or in] my flat is too much.

or

  • I know that the furniture of [or in] my flat is excessive.

If the writer does not qualify either statement in the sentences that follow them, the reader will be left to decide whether the terms too much or excessive refer to the quantity of furniture in the flat (relating to more than necessary, normal or desirable in the definition below), or to the perception that the furniture is, for example, ostentatious, too ornate or too colourful (more aligned with the immoderate sense of the definition).

excessive [ODO]

ADJECTIVE

More than is necessary, normal, or desirable; immoderate.

‘he was drinking excessive amounts of brandy’

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