amazing / astonishing / surprising

Why is it English speakers can say “it’s amazing/astonishing/surprising that…” and “it’s not surprising that…” but do not normally say “it’s not amazing/astonishing that”?

I don’t think it’s unusual to say, “It’s not amazing that…” or, “It’s not astonishing that…”, but it’s just not the most common way to express the idea. Often we add “the least bit” and say, “It’s not the least bit astonishing that…” Those expressions are perfectly normal.

How do you define “unusual” and “not the most common”, Jamie? Aren’t they similar in meaning?

Jamie claims these combinations are not unusual, but I’ve found only 1 example of “not astononishing that” in 1m words in the BNC, only 2 examples per 1m words in the Corpus of American English and only 1 example in the Time corpus.

In all three corpora, there are no examples of “not amazing that”.

So, if those combinations/colligations/collocations are not unusual, just who is using them and where?


The trouble with these results from a corpus is that they don’t allow for any originality of expression.

is a heap more effective than the usual way of showing surprise. There seems to be a trend here of throwing google or bnc or whatever at anyone who uses an expression that has a zing about it! And I bet you won’t find that (has a zing about it) in any database!


By the way, what’s the difference among surprise, astonish and amaze?

I don’t think we use them for such. Originality is fine, but when an ESL student needs to learn native-speaker collocations, we need to take care of just what is and is not commonly heard. My question was not about originality, but about why such combinations are not common. Do you know why?

This is what we use the BNC for:

“Is it not astonishing?” is not “it is not atonishing that”, Alan.

And never say never, Alan:

Does that tell us anything about “zing”?

Hi Molly,

I take your point about the use of a corpus and how it can help. What I am railing against I suppose is the attitude: I found this in *corpus and so ya boo or I can’t find it in the *corpus and so ya boo.


Yes, that attitude is annoying. I also hate the attitude of “I’m a native speaker and my intuition tells me… and so ya boo to anything else”. :wink: Another I can’t stand is the “it is possible to combine many many things”. Great news, but I’m more interested in what is probable and not in that which is possible.

Hi Molly,

Taking up on Alan’s well-intentioned piece of advice may help you become a more creative ESL speaker one day :wink:

I’m surprised/astonished/… at Alan’s patience.
(by the way, native-speakers often say: it’s unnatural, it’s not common, …) :slight_smile:

As opposed to saying…?

Talking about the corpuses, what do you think about this: I’ve found 23 result of the phrase “repeat again” on the BNC :smiley:

Hi Nessie

Have you considered that “repeat again” might mean that something is being said for the third time. :wink:

What’s the problem? There’s emphasis at work.

All OK:

I repeat once more for you benefit
We repeat again and again
repeat once on the left and repeat again on the right

So? I don’t know, Amy :slight_smile: that’s why I want some ideas from native speakers: you will surely understand more than me (My non-native teachers here always teach me that “repeat again” is completely wrong. :wink:

You’re teachers are wrong, or referring to a specific context. It would only be wrong if one had not repeated something more than once.


*Today, we just tried oysters for the first time and wouldn’t repeat again.

Son: I hate you, Mom!
*Mom: Would you like to repeat again what you just said?

Nothing of the kind. But when I don’t know anything I expect some explanations. For example here Agreement between subject and verb. Though in this case (I mean my question - Agreement) I will agree on it natural, common…. :slight_smile: