Zero-Credit Grammar Wednesday

Mrs. Chili doesn’t accept late work, but I’m handing this in anyway.

The other day Meno emailed me with this querry:

So, which of these is correct, if any?

He is more sensitive than I.

He is more sensitive than me.

He is more sensitive than I am.

Thank you!

-Meno

Meno, it all depends on what kind of “correct” you’re looking for.  Really, ALL of them work, though I would be more inclined to go with either the first or the last.

Here’s the thing; people say – and are UNDERSTOOD when they say – “he is more sensitive than me.”  “Me” is an OBJECTIVE pronoun, though, and if we’re being all uptight and fussy about our grammar, we know that objective pronouns can’t serve as the subject of a sentence (or a clause).  The ‘than’ preposition sets up a clause – you’re comparing two things, and the (often unspoken) conclusion to that clause involves a subject and a verb.  “That is cheaper than this (is).”  “She is prettier than I (am), but I am a much nicer person.

What I’m trying to say in my long-winded, English teacher way is that you CAN say all three and be descriptively correct.  If you’re going for uptight-correctness, though, go with either the first or the last of your examples here.

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2 Comments

Filed under Grammar

2 responses to “Zero-Credit Grammar Wednesday

  1. I have a grammar question centering on punctuation. I am prone to the parenthetical phrase. When should one use commas to separate the phrase and when should actual parentheses be called to action?

  2. You’re assuming that than should correctly be used conjunctively – that is, should be used to introduce a clause. However, good writers have used than as a preposition, and therefore followed it by object pronouns, since the 16th century.

    In the 18th century, when people started to care about this sort of thing, opinion was divided on the correct use of than. Lowth considered than only correct when introducing a clause – except that he considered than whom to be correct for some reason. But other grammarians considered than to be a preposition and therefore followed by object pronouns. Some grammarians thought either use was correct.

    I think either is correct. The evidence supports the use of than as both a conjunction (than I) and as a preposition (than me). “Than I” is found more often in formal writing.

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