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I found the following sentence on someone’s webpage which was written about some Japanese traditional things. I can’t get it why the sentence starts with’A lot has to do with’.... Is that an Anastrophe sentence? Or can we use ‘A lot’ as a grammatical subject?

Please help to understand this sentence.

A lot has to do with the very brief life of the flowers, blooming only for about a week to ten days.

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  • 'A lot' is the subject, fronted as usual, but must be considered to be short for 'Much of the reason that this is so' [has to do with ...]. // 'Have to do with' being a (transitive) multi-word verb (of an unusual kind) does not help the analysis. 'Has to do with' may in the original example be swapped for 'involves'. Mar 7, 2021 at 14:40
  • No man is an island. Anyway, the sentence likely follows a description of ink painting or some fleeting element of improvisation, so this sentence continues the explanation of that art, matching the short-lived flowers. A lot (of that brevity) reflects this. Mar 7, 2021 at 14:55
  • "A lot" is the subject, understood as "a lot of x", where the meaning of "x" is obtainable from the prior discourse. "Have" is the matrix verb, with the infinitival clause "to do with the very brief life of the flowers" as its complement.
    – BillJ
    Mar 7, 2021 at 15:15

1 Answer 1

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As others have said in the comments, this sentence has the standard word order, so it is not anastrophic.

The subject is indeed a lot, but there is an ellipsis of the of-part that normally follows. Here is the relevant discussion from CGEL (p. 349, the emphasis in boldface mine). Most relevant to you are the B examples in [56]:

(a) Number-transparent quantificational nouns

The lot in

[53]  i a. [A lot of work] was done.        b.  [A lot of errors] were made.

is to be distinguished from that of We have two lots of visitors coming this afternoon, one at 2.30 and the other at 4, where lot is a count noun meaning "group". In the use illustrated in [53i] it has been bleached of its original meaning and is a non-count noun, with the bracketed NPs meaning respectively "much work" and "many errors". The of complement can be omitted in ellipsis, but it remains understood and continues to determine the number of the NP headed by lot, as is evident from the verb-forms in:

[56]  i  A: Where did all the money go?               B: A lot was spent on travel.
         ii  A: What happened to the protesters?     B: A lot were arrested.

In [i] a lot is understood as "a lot of the money" and hence is singular, in [ii] as "a lot of the protesters", and hence plural.

For completeness, let me include a more general discussion from this answer of mine. In both [531a] and [53ib], the subject (in brackets) is a noun phrase (NP) whose head is lot. But the number of the NP (i.e. whether the NP is singular or plural) is determined not by the head, as is normally the case, but by the number of the oblique (i.e. by the number of the complement of the preposition of): a lot of work is singular because work is singular, and so we have the singular verb was. And a lot of errors is plural because errors is plural, and so we have the plural verb were. We say that lot is a number-transparent quantificational noun. Besides lot and rest, there are only several other clear examples of number-transparent nouns: lots, plenty, bags, heaps, loads, oodles, remainder, number, and couple (CGEL, p. 350). In the words of CGEL, a number-transparent noun allows the number of the oblique to percolate up to determine the number of the whole NP (CGEL, p. 349).

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