How to use "not so much [x] as [y]"



I wrote the following sentences:

  1. He drives not so much quickly as recklessly.
  2. He does not drive so much quickly as recklessly.
  3. He does not drive quickly so much as recklessly.

Which one sounds best to you? I would be grateful for any comments.

Wesley To

Posted 2016-12-30T09:54:10.560

Reputation: 113

I think the first sounds a lot better. Best to keep the "not" with the "so much", and not insert a verb between them. The second and third sentences are not so much ungrammatical as they are awkward. – J.R. – 2016-12-30T10:22:07.693



As a native BrE speaker I would never say 1 or 2. They would sound strange to me if I heard anyone say them. 3 sounds fine to me, and I would insert a comma if I were writing it:

He does not drive quickly, so much as recklessly.

I couldn't disagree more with J.R.'s comment on the OP!

Francis Barton

Posted 2016-12-30T09:54:10.560

Reputation: 31

I agree with this completely. And I am an AmE speaker. So 3 is fine. – Lambie – 2019-01-11T00:32:18.820


Here is an alternate opinion for you that you can consider.

He drives not so much fast, as he drives reckless. Or He drives not as much fast as reckless. He drives quickly, not as much as recklessly.

Though it is not an absolute rule, I think what is affecting me is that frequently the -ly adverb follows the verb and not a quantifier so for me it is just awkward. However, others feel differently than I do.

When I think of driving quickly, I think of someone getting into a care and putting it into motion as soon as possible, which could be a slow motion. Quickly usually implies doing something in a short time.

I ate quickly, so I could leave for the movies. I am not sure that driving quickly is related to being reckless. Driving fast may or may not be wreckless.


Posted 2016-12-30T09:54:10.560

Reputation: 58

To drive fast, fast is an adverb. To drive recklessly, adverb. – Lambie – 2019-01-11T00:32:53.207


Use another example to simplify.

He’s not so much acting unintelligently as acting uninterested in schoolwork.

While the subject is actively unintelligently, what is more important is his lack of interest.

So for your three examples:
1. He acts not so much unintelligently as uninterested.
2. He does not act so much unintelligently as uninterested.
3. He does not act unintelligently so much as uninterested.

3 sounds the most natural, but the meaning is clear in all 3. In each case, both the first and the second descriptions are true, but the emphasis is on the second.

And just to add a bit more complexity, the following statements are also possible:

It's not just that he drives quickly, as much as drives recklessly.
It's not that he drives quickly, as much as that he drives recklessly.
It's not his driving aggressively that's the issue, it's his recklessness while driving.
It's not his aggressive driving, it's his recklessness while driving that's the issue.

As always depends on what exactly you are trying to express. Figure out your primary intention with this statement, and that should help guide your word choice.

English stack discussion of the issue
Another similar question from a neighboring stack
General Idiom dictionary

Kevin McCann

Posted 2016-12-30T09:54:10.560

Reputation: 111


Short Answer: 1

Long Answer: But I would write it as, "It's not so much that he drives quickly as it is that he drives recklessly."

Teacher KSHuang

Posted 2016-12-30T09:54:10.560

Reputation: 3 670

There may be a place for it, but I don't think a learner should assume that your wordier version is always the better one. – J.R. – 2016-12-30T10:26:12.127

@J.R. I hadn't made that assumption myself. Expert opinions these may be, they are still only opinions after all, no? – Teacher KSHuang – 2016-12-30T10:51:35.287


Generally speaking and in an ideal sense, SE strives to get answers, not opinions. Moreover, you may not have made that assumption, but it's not hard to imagine a learner reading your answer and jumping to that conclusion – especially in your answer's current terse form.

– J.R. – 2016-12-30T10:57:05.977

@J.R. I think you should give us learners more credit than that. – Teacher KSHuang – 2016-12-30T11:17:40.470

I think your answer could be misleading; it makes it sound like your wordier version is superior to the O.P.'s short one. All I did was leave a clarifying comment. I'm not trying to discredit any learner. – J.R. – 2016-12-30T14:29:01.663

It not so much that he drives quickly but that he drives recklessly. That's the simplest. – Lambie – 2019-01-11T00:34:09.907