"Much to" to use possessive proper noun first or pronoun first?

5

Ben was elated. He had won the first prize for an art competition.

Which is correct?

  1. Much to Ben's elation, he had won the first prize for an art competition

  2. Much to his elation, Ben had won the first prize for an art competition

John's missing car was found badly burned. He was horrified.

Which is correct?

  1. Much to John's horror, his missing car was found badly burned.

  2. Much to his horror, John's missing car was found badly burned.

olive

Posted 2015-12-05T15:26:27.233

Reputation: 51

Answers

1

Both are correct, grammatically. However, the second form is more idiomatic.

But note that this is not a general form in English usage. It is commonly used with an ironic or sarcastic tone, and usually only with a few verbs, most commonly "surprise". It tends to imply that the subject has been somewhat naive or foolish in his expectations.

For example, you would not commonly say "much to his elation", but something like "to his great delight".

Similarly, you would commonly say "To his horror," not "Much to his horror".

user10365

Posted 2015-12-05T15:26:27.233

Reputation:

0

The most significant part in the first example is "won the first prize for an art competition". Ben's elation comes as a result of his victory. Thus, the name of the subject should be specified along with the most significant part of the sentence. Similarly, in the second example, the event is the "missing car was found badly burned". Here, John's horrific reaction comes as a result of the event. Thus, the name "John" should be associated with the event's definition, and not with his reaction.

  1. Much to his elation, Ben had won the first prize for an art competition.

  2. Much to his horror, John's missing car was found badly burned

PS, I'm not sure whether the other format is incorrect, but this one is definitely correct.

Varun Nair

Posted 2015-12-05T15:26:27.233

Reputation: 7 920

0

Though both of the first pair are fine, I find

Much to his elation, Ben had won the first prize for an art competition.

to be the slightly less ambiguous choice. For me, the other construction leaves the possibility that some other person actually won the competition but we just don't know who the new person is because this sentence is out of context.

However, in the next example I much prefer

Much to John's horror, his missing car was found badly burned.

As I read the sentence, "Much to his horror, John's…" my mind starts filling in "John's brother/father/friend/etc." resulting in some cognitive dissonance when I reach the inanimate word car.

The fact that "his horror" and "John's missing car" both include possessives clouds the true subject for me. That's not the case for "his elation" and "Ben."

Gossar

Posted 2015-12-05T15:26:27.233

Reputation: 746