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Special Cases of Comparison

If you wish to delve deeper into the more academic level of this grammar point, you need consider the special cases of comparison as outlined below:

1) Comparison with a definite standard

Sometimes we have to deal with a standard, usually mentioned in context. For example you’re reading a book and they mention somebody’s height. Whatever they say, that becomes the ‘standard’ in that context. Everything else that is compared to ‘that’ afterwards will be a case of what we call “comparison with a definite norm”, the norm being the standard we set in the respective context.

- A: John is six foot tall.
- B: No, he’s taller (than that).
- B: Is he really as tall (as that)? / Is he THAT tall?

When we compare the same thing NOT to something else, but to the same thing at an earlier/later stage, we usually omit the ‘than’-phrase:

- The global warming is getting worse. (i.e. ‘worse than it was’)
- Criminals are becoming more difficult to catch nowadays, in spite of the more advanced technology the police have on their hands. (i.e. ‘more difficult than before; ‘more advanced than before’)

2) Expressing continuous change

In this case you can simply repeat the comparative word:

- Many men feel more and more out of tune with their partners lately.
- More and more wild foxes can be seen in big cities at night.
- As he trained intensively lately, he became stronger and stronger, so I won’t be surprised if he’ll win the gold this year.

3) Comparative with “enough” and “too”

These words indicate ‘as much as’ and ‘more than’ some desirable norm/standard.

This standard can be expressed by:

i) a 'to+infinitive clause';
ii) a 'for+phrase', or
iii) it can also be omitted, where the meaning is obvious.

i) a to+infinitive clause:

- The boy was strong enough to fight the illness off. (i.e. ‘as strong as necessary to fight it off’)
- That was just too good to be true. (i.e. ‘better than I could believe’)
- Some of the grammar rules in the English language can be too complex for a beginner to understand without any explanation. (i.e. ‘more complex than his/her ability to understand’)

ii) a for+phrase

That hat is too big for your head, I’m afraid. (i.e. ‘bigger than your head would need’)
Is the soup warm enough for you? (i.e. ‘as warm as you would like it’)

iii) Omission:

Are you warm enough? (i.e. ‘warm enough to be comfortable’)

4) Comparative with “so … (that)” and “such … (that)”

These expressions are similar to “enough” and “too”, just more emphatic – they underline the situation more:

- He drove so fast that we hardly saw anything around us on that trip. (meaning roughly ‘too fast for us to see anything’)
- Her cakes were so good that visitors always asked for more. (‘too good to abstain from eating more)

The “so … (that)” and “such … (that)” phrases also add a sense of result expressed by the ‘that-clause’:

- The exam was such a nightmare that he just wanted to forget about it.

The emotive emphasis expressed by ‘so…’ and ‘such…’ can also be understood in the absence of the that-clause:

- The whole trip was such an adventure!
- I’m so hungry!

5) Comparison with nouns: more of a success, etc.

Let’s firstly understand that certain countable nouns can have various grades of the quality they express. For example, you can imagine ‘a success’ on a scale from 1 to 10 – the success can be at the lower end or at the higher end, depending. Note we’re using the noun ‘success’, not the adjective ‘successful’.

- The party was more of a success than we anticipated (it would be).
- You’re less of a fool than I thought (you were).
- She’s too much of a cat to spare you the gossip.

Now, my friends, I think this lesson may be too complex, to justify adding the comparative clauses and phrases here, so I shall leave that aspect for next time. If you get to master these examples by next time it will be sufficient, I suggest.

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