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A word order

English grammar help. Grammar questions from ESL learners

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A word order

Postby pdh0224 » Fri Oct 15, 2004 9:35 pm

Dear teacher,

By using electrical shocks to stir his numb nervous system and tirelessly exercising, he twitch-by-tiny-twitch was beginning to recapture use of his body. In September 2000 he moved an index finger and the news startled scientists who had not expected to see such progress so long after so severe an accident. Mr. Reeve expected nothing less and continued to improve.

Q : The word order "so severe an accident" is odd to me. I think "an so severe accident" is a right order. What do you think? What does "nothing less" mean? I think "than..." is omitted behind of "less".

All the best,
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Postby Alan » Sat Oct 16, 2004 5:55 am

No, this is the only correct word order: *a(n) so severe accident would be ungrammatical!

The rule here is that where we wish to modify a noun (such as 'accident') with an adjective phrase of the form [so + ADJ], there are two ways in which it can be done:

1. using 'so', we follow the pattern [so+ ADJ +a(n)+ NP]


2. using 'such', we instead say [such+ a(n)+ ADJ+ NP], giving 'such a severe accident' as the alternative formulation.

The second is actually the more commonly heard, the first being rather formal.
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