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Reply to "did - had"

Interestingly, the following does work:

(2) Now fewer children and mothers have health problems than the number of children and mothers that had health problems 100 years ago.

Instead of "the number of children and mothers that . . .," we could also have "the amount/quantity of them that . . . ." Notice that, in (2), "than" is not a subordinating conjunction introducing a clause but a preposition whose object is a noun phrase (headed by "number") modified by a relative clause.

That's very interesting, and I agree with you that the numbers or quantities of children and mothers having health problems now and 100 years ago are being compared. I think this also works, doesn't it?:

2.a. Now fewer children and mothers have health problems than those who/that had health problems 100 years ago.

Here's another published example:

Quote:

"More people use this brand than (use) any other window-cleaning fluid."

- Quirk et al. (1985), Section 15.65, p. 1130.  A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman.

Quirk et al. place "use" in parentheses in the "than"-clause. That means that it is possible to use the term or to omit it. I submit that, were it grammatical to duplicate not only the verb of the main clause but its subject too, they would have placed "people" or "they" in parentheses, as well. But they didn't.

Excellent find, David. Your search couldn't have been more thorough. The sentence above sounds to me as if "more" had been moved from an adverbial to an adjectival position:

- People use this brand more than (they use) any other window-cleaning fluid.

With inanimate objects in passive clauses, the construction whose grammaticality I am disputing seems especially bad:

(3a) Fewer cars were washed today than were washed yesterday.
(3b) *Fewer cars were washed today than they were washed yesterday.
(3c) *Fewer cars were washed today than cars were washed yesterday.

Lastly, returning to the point that there is not repetition (in standard educated usage) within the comparative clause of the comparative element from the main clause, I think it is worthwhile to observe that grammaticality varies here depending on whether there is sameness or difference in the "than"-clause.

(3c) *Fewer cars were washed today than cars were washed yesterday.
(3d) Fewer cars were washed today than trucks were washed yesterday.

(4a) This board is longer than that board is.
(4b) *This board is longer than that board is long.
(4c) This board is longer than that board is wide.

Excellent examples and explanation, in particular your reference to the sameness or difference in the "than"-clause.

As I said in (2.a) above, I think (3.a) can be similarly transformed into:

3.a'. Fewer cars were washed today than those that were washed yesterday.

Last edited by Gustavo, Co-Moderator
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