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We have cases where the comparative word ‘than’ can introduce a sub-clause, which is a part of a sentence, which has its own verb, but it doesn’t make sense if it is separated from the main part of the sentence.
"[His latest film is more interesting] [than the ones he made previously.]"
This is a comparison that stretches along two sentences – as you can see, each one has its own verb. The hinge element is ‘more interesting’, so called because it belongs to both sentences at the same time.
I could say:
"His latest film is more interesting than the others."
But then you wouldn’t understand or it wouldn’t be clear enough as to which others. One could also read it as:
- ‘the ones made by other directors’;
- ‘the ones that I’ve seen before’;
- ‘the other films they’ve shown at this cinema’, etc.
The moment you give it a verb, it becomes a clause and, in this case, because it doesn’t have a full meaning on its own, it is a sub-clause. We call this the comparative clause.
[You look much more beautiful] [than my sister does].
[Students read and write English much better] [than they speak it].
[He loved her more] [than she could reciprocate].
But, what about cases like this:
Instead of saying:
[My friend can speak Chinese better] [than I (he, they, we) can]. [… better than I (he, they, we) can (speak it).]
We could actually say:
"My friend can speak Chinese better than I (he, they, we)." (formal) OR
"My friend can speak Chinese better than me (him, them, us)." (informal)
* As you can see here, other elements in the sub-clause can be omitted if they repeat information in the main clause. If the verb is omitted, we don’t have a clause anymore – we have a phrase, which we call a ‘comparative phrase’ in this case.
With this simplification, there is a slight risk for misunderstanding:
"He likes Anna more than Maria."
Could be interpreted:
"He likes Anna more than he likes Maria."
"He likes Anna more than Maria does."
* In comparative phrases, an adverbial or adjective can follow the ‘than’ linking word:
"They thought the game was better than ever."
"For his homework, he did no more than usual."
"There is higher unemployment in the north than in the south."
* Sometimes, we cannot use some types of comparative phrases in relation with comparative clauses, for example in the comparison of degree or amount:
"We had fewer than 10 students in the class."
"You must find better things to do than playing computer games."
* Another little anomaly is the case where only comparison with ‘more’ or ‘less’ can be used:
"Her performance was more good than bad." (it was good rather than bad)
* The above examples concern cases of ‘unequal’ comparisons. However, with ‘equal’ comparisons, we need to use the ‘as… as’ expression:
"The children seem to like the one parent as much as the other."
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