Consider the below sentence. Context: The speaker came from a very poor background, and has recently received a promotion to become the CEO of a major company; for that reason the speaker is over the moon.

Is my getting promoted not more than I could ever have hoped for, having come from a very poor background?

I'm having difficulty comprehending the above sentence. Well, I get what the essential meaning of the sentence is - that the speaker is ecstatic about having got the promotion - but an understanding of the syntax eludes me.

It is the following two features of the sentence that are the most confusing to me:

  1. 'more than'. What part of speech does 'more' belong to? It cannot be an adverb (as it usually is: cf. He is more interesting than I will ever be), because it is not modifying anything else.
  2. 'could have hoped for'. What I do not understand here is whether or not this hope was ever felt by him, i.e. whether or not it was actualised. In most sentences containing could have, the possibility/ability/etc. is not actualised: e.g. I could have gone to Germany (but didn't).

Thank you.

  • More coffee would be more as an adjective, like here. Aug 17, 2022 at 22:15
  • 1
    It's the same as "There was more than I thought." Does that make sense? The syntax is a lot clearer, without the negative and other features.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 17, 2022 at 23:07
  • @StuartF. Your example ('There was more than I thought') appears to be at variance with the analyses of YosefBaskin and MarcInManhattan, who claim that 'more' functions as an adjective here. If what they say is true - if 'more' is indeed an adjective here - then your example, in which 'more' would seem to function as a noun, is not comparable with mine.
    – Eric
    Aug 18, 2022 at 9:37
  • Where did that sentence come from, please? Does it sound natural to you? Sep 1, 2022 at 22:35

2 Answers 2

  1. "More" can be considered either an adjective or a pronoun,1 functioning in either case as a subject complement. From M-W:

more adjective
// something more than she expected

more pronoun, singular or plural in construction
: additional persons or things or a greater amount
// more will arrive shortly
// more was spilled

  1. No, the hope was not "actualized". The speaker "could have hoped" for something, and getting promoted is apparently "more" than that.

1Some people might prefer to consider it a noun.

  • Right. Suppose the addressee answered with Yes, this is more than you could have hoped for. Does 'could' indicate past ability here? I am rather confused as to what the 'could' means here, as to what sense of modality it confers on the hope.
    – Eric
    Aug 18, 2022 at 19:18
  • @Eric It simply refers to possibility. On a scale from 0 to 100, it was only possible for the speaker to hope for something from 0 to 80. This is more than 80. Aug 18, 2022 at 20:04

Is my getting promoted not more than I could ever have hoped for, having come from a very poor background?

This is a rhetorical question and does not require a question mark. (It is also stilted and pompous.)

What the person wished to convey is

My getting promoted is more than I could ever have hoped for because I came from a very poor background.

From this, you can see that "more" is an adjectival predicate to "My getting promoted is" and "than I could ever have hoped for" is adverbial clause modifying "more".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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