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Reply to "did - had"

What an interesting discussion, David and Ahmed!

I think the main clue lies in what David said here:

[...] the comparative term in the subject NP of the main clause ("fewer") relates to the subject of the "than"-clause, and we may observe the impossibility of the following:

  • Fewer people than people . . . .
  • Fewer children and mothers than children and mothers . . . .

While the subject in the main clause is restricted or qualified by "fewer," it is not in the comparative clause ("all" children and mothers) and, as a result, the comparison does not work. My view is that some focus should be placed on the quantitative value of "fewer" so that it ceases to be a mere determiner in the NP "fewer children and mothers."  I think these would work (what do you think?):

- Children and mothers who have/having health problems are fewer now than they were 100 years ago.

or

- There are fewer children and mothers who have/having health problems now than there were 100 years ago.

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