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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

Big of a

What on earth is this construction? Usually I hear it as in, “It’s not that big of a deal.” It’s means it’s not a big deal. It should read, “It’s not that big a deal.”

I’ve looked through my grammar books, even looked online (Grammar Girl uses it), and although I can find no rule, I’m sure it’s wrong.

Here’s my reasoning.

At first I thought it was the prepositional phrase, but no. “Of a deal” is fine. Then, I looked at big. An aha moment. A prepositional phrase should have a noun antecedent, and big is an adjective.

So, the sentence really should read, “It’s not that big a deal.”

So, OK, where does the confusion come in? I think it’s the placement of the article “a,” and the word “that.” English, as we know, can be weird. In the sentence “It’s not that big a deal” the “a” comes after the adjective, which is not the way English ordinarily flows. So, maybe, using the prepositional phrase “of a deal” or just the word “of” is maybe a stutter word like “um” or “you know.”

I suppose your reaction to my little rant is that it’s not that big of a deal, but it grates on my ears, makes my teeth clench and generally annoys me completely.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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January 14, 2010 um 4:28 pm
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  1. haru

    I hate that, too. It grates on the ear is right. The sad thing is my daughter’s H.S. english teacher says it’s correct.

    #1 Comment vom 07. October 2010 um 4:52 pm

  2. admin

    Let us weep together, my friend. Understanding grammar, word usage and syntax are specific skills; teaching them is another. And (yes, I started a sentence with and) sometimes never the twain shall meet. Let’s hope the teacher has excellent skills teaching literature.

    #2 Comment vom 20. October 2010 um 1:48 pm

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