Reply to "Inversion in comparative sentence"

Gustavo, Contributor posted:

The subject being so long in the sentence above, full inversion seems to be preferred over subject-auxiliary inversion, don't you think?:

?The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater did Mrs. Shelby's dread of his succeeding in recapturing Eliza and her child become...

Hi, Gustavo: Yes, I definitely prefer the use of full inversion here to subject-auxiliary inversion, and I agree that the heaviness of the subject noun phrase makes the use of inversion especially natural and elegant. However, I don't find the use of inversion necessary. Although it would have been less elegant, Harriet Beecher Stowe could have grammatically written:

  • The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater Mrs. Shelby's dread of his succeeding in recapturing Eliza and her child became.

I think the crucial difference, which allows for full inversion in the Uncle Tom's Cabin example, is the use of "the greater" rather than "the more" in the second (main) clause of the correlative comparative. Novice's example uses "the more" in the second clause, and therefore -- if inversion is used -- only subject-auxiliary inversion works (or is acknowledged by leading linguists to be passable).

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