Submitted by Artis Roenspies on March 1, 2012

of a

My question is on “of a”, as in, “How long of a process would this be?” or “How long of a wait is it?” I was taught there is no “of”, rather “How long a wait is it?” or “How long a process?” I see and hear “of a” so often now, I’m wondering if the rules have changed. Thank you.

Comments

Sort by

AnWulf seems to have it about right.
Can be used in the right place, but usually bad, bad, bad!

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Stand back, Mediator. He's got him on the ropes. How much of a contest is it?!

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Advantage Hairy.
JJMB to serve.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

@JJMB

I should add that humour is also sadly absent from your ravings.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

@JJMB

I have been reviewing some of your other pronouncements in this forum and have come to the conclusion that you are even more pedantic and prescriptive than I and many others.
In addition, your arguments are often void of both lucidity and logic.
That, professor, is much more of a flaw than mere petty snobbery.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

As for a "lucid argument", there's none to be made because no argument is necessary.

Clearly some dialects use "of" here and some don't.

End of story.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

"I have oft admitted that I am a pedantic old curmudgeon and as such I reserve the right to express my opinions."

No one is suggesting you don't have the right to express your opinions.

However, your recent remark still amounts to petty snobbery over language differences.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

The better way would be to say, "How long is the wait?" or "How long is the process?".

However, there is nothing wrong with "How long of a wait is it?".

Think of it this way ... Someone says, "It's a bit of a wait." ... The question to the answer is, "How long of a wait is it?"

There's nothing wrong with "of a wait" any more than "of a kind", "of a lifetime", "of a muchness", "of a piece", "of a size", "of a sort", or "of a truth" (all in the wordbook as phrases).

Then I found this on a site for grammar: It would create *too long of a list* to include all the eBrary ebooks that we have on English Usage and Grammar in the list to the right ...

I can't think of a good reason why there shouldn't be a preposition there.

1 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Pity we don't have a facility to include images in posts.
Maybe Dyske can help with that.

8-;)

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

'Twould seem the emoticon I seek is 8-;)

Found it after a bit of a search.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Now there's a bit of a thing!

Okay, that's enough from me on finding examples of "of a". The rest is silence. Maybe.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

@Brus
I expected someone to bite and come back with a lucid argument to counter my assertion about the americanism.
The snobbery jibe was a bit of a surprise.

@JJMB
I have oft admitted that I am a pedantic old curmudgeon and as such I reserve the right to express my opinions.
I just need to find a suitable icon to indicate "tongue in cheek" lest I be accused of trolling.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Accusations of petty snobbery ...!

I see one hell (or American: heck) of a quarrel developing here, or am I just being hopeful?

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

"Petty snobbery"!

ROFLMAO

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

"The former is perfectly good english. The latter is not, and is, I suspect, something of an Americanism."

Ah yes, the usual fall-back position of all grammar pedants: when the facts fail you, resort to petty snobbery.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Saying "canon of a ministry" is a long way from saying something like "how long of a wait was it".
The former is perfectly good english. The latter is not, and is, I suspect, something of an Americanism.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

A, an come from the same root as "one" ... anfald = onefold (means simple). The "of a, an" construction has been here since at least Middle English ... heck, 1123 is almost Old English:

1123 Peterb.Chron.(LdMisc 636) an.1123: Þa tidde hit on an Wodnes dei [etc.]..he was canonie ***of an*** mynstre, Cicc hatte. (Here it means of one which is the root of a, an ... in OE and early ME it means "one".

a1225(?a1200) Trin.Hom.(Trin-C B.14.52) 39: Ure drihten drof fele deules..ut ***of a*** man þe was of his wit.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Actually, the “of a” construction seems better to me in these cases. I am not sure why, but somehow the “of” seems to indicate that temporal rather than spatial extension is being talked about: I would not say, or write, “How long of a piece of string is it?” However, when I read “How long a process is it?” (without “of”), I feel myself hesitate momentarily between the more common temporal sense of “length of a process” and the less common spatial sense. The “of” seems to remove that ambiguity, making the meaning clearly temporal, and the sentence thus flows better with it there.

2 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I go back and forth and have only just realized that right now!

At this point, while the rule might not have officially changed, the language might be adopting the "of," since you're right in saying that it's pretty common.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

More words !=more lazy

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I dont think the rules have changed, people have just got more lazy

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Your Comment