Inversion in comparative sentence

Hi,

The larger the area of forest is destroyed, .......

A. the most frequent natural disasters are

B. the most frequently natural disasters occur

C. the more frequent are natural disasters

D. the more frequently natural disasters occur

Which option is the best to fill in the blank? 

 It's obvious that D is correct, but when it comes to inversion in comparative sentences, I can't rule out the option C. 

Are there two equally good answer to that question? 

 

 

Original Post

Hi, Novice,

novice posted:

Hi,

The larger the area of forest is destroyed, .......

A. the most frequent natural disasters are

B. the most frequently natural disasters occur

C. the more frequent are natural disasters

D. the more frequently natural disasters occur

Which option is the best to fill in the blank? 

 It's obvious that D is correct, but when it comes to inversion in comparative sentences, I can't rule out the option C. 

Are there two equally good answer to that question? 

 

 

I see that the only correct choice here is "D". It is the correct word order for this structure: (the + comparative expression + subject + verb).

BTW, Using 'is' in your question above seems to me ungrammatical.

Using 'is' in your question above seems to me ungrammatical.

I agree with you, Ahmed. There is an implicit main verb "is" that joins the subject "the area of forest" (I prefer "the forest area") with its adjectival complement "larger." The "is" before "destroyed" is a dependent verb and should be understood as forming part of a relative clause. Therefore, the sentence:

- As the forest area that is destroyed is larger, natural disasters occur more frequently.

can be transformed into this parallel comparative structure in which the main verb "is" will tend to be omitted (as is usually the case with the verb "be" in these structures):

- The larger the forest area that is destroyed (is), the more frequently natural disasters occur.

What we compare, Novice, is the large size of the forest area that is destroyed with the frequency of occurrence of natural disasters. If we want to compare the degree or extent of forest destruction with the frequency of natural disasters, then a comparative adverb that refers to "be destroyed" (rather than the comparative adjective "larger") will have to be used:

- The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently natural disasters occur. 

gustavocontributor posted:
The "is" before "destroyed" is a dependent verb and should be understood as forming part of a relative clause.

Excellent point, Gustavo. I agree with both you and Ahmed_btm that the first part of Novice's example ("The larger the area of forest is destroyed") is ungrammatical, and that adding "that" or "which" after "forest" would render it grammatical. Interestingly, "that" can even be added after "larger":

  • The larger that the area of forest that is destroyed is, . . . .
  • (Read: The larger that it is, . . . .)
gustavocontributor posted:
- The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently natural disasters occur. 

I like that revision, Gustavo. If Novice wants to use inversion, auxiliary inversion would work. We simply need to add an auxiliary. We can use dummy "do" or shift to "will":

  • The more (that) the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently do natural disasters occur.
  • The more (that) the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently will natural disasters occur.

I myself would opt for a more radical revision. This double comparative construction is special and thrives off of simplicity and parallelism:

  • The more we destroy forests, the more we will have natural disasters.
  • The more we destroy forests, the more will we have natural disasters.
  • More forest destruction means more natural disasters.

I would like to say thanks to all of you. 

But  I have to admit there is still something that puzzles me. Would you be kind to clear it up for me? 

ahmedbtm posted:

Hi, Novice,

BTW, Using 'is' in your question above seems to me ungrammatical.

gustavocontributor posted:

Using 'is' in your question above seems to me ungrammatical.

I agree with you, Ahmed. There is an implicit main verb "is" that joins the subject "the area of forest" (I prefer "the forest area") with its adjectival complement "larger." The "is" before "destroyed" is a dependent verb and should be understood as forming part of a relative clause. Therefore, the sentence:

- As the forest area that is destroyed is larger, natural disasters occur more frequently.

can be transformed into this parallel comparative structure in which the main verb "is" will tend to be omitted (as is usually the case with the verb "be" in these structures):

- The larger the forest area that is destroyed (is), the more frequently natural disasters occur.

What we compare, Novice, is the large size of the forest area that is destroyed with the frequency of occurrence of natural disasters. If we want to compare the degree or extent of forest destruction with the frequency of natural disasters, then a comparative adverb that refers to "be destroyed" (rather than the comparative adjective "larger") will have to be used:

- The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently natural disasters occur. 

Thanks to Gustavocontributor, I can understand why Ahmedbtm said that "is" in my question was wrong. 

davidmoderator posted:
gustavocontributor posted:
- The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently natural disasters occur. 

I like that revision, Gustavo. If Novice wants to use inversion, auxiliary inversion would work. We simply need to add an auxiliary. We can use dummy "do" or shift to "will":

  • The more (that) the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently do natural disasters occur.
  • The more (that) the forest area is destroyed, the more frequently will natural disasters occur.

I myself would opt for a more radical revision. This double comparative construction is special and thrives off of simplicity and parallelism:

  • The more we destroy forests, the more we will have natural disasters.
  • The more we destroy forests, the more will we have natural disasters.
  • More forest destruction means more natural disasters.

But I can't understand why I can't say 

  • The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequent natural disasters are. 
  • The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequent are natural disasters
  • The more we destroy forests, the more natural disasters are
  • The more we destroy forests, the more are natural disasters

But I can't understand why I can't say 

  • The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequent natural disasters are. 
  • The more the forest area is destroyed, the more frequent are natural disasters
  • The more we destroy forests, the more natural disasters are
  • The more we destroy forests, the more are natural disasters

What gave you the impression that I was saying you couldn't say those things?

I said no such thing, Novice. You asked about a different sentence entirely.

The first part of your original sentence was totally ungrammatical.

Of your four new sentences, the first two are fine; the second two are not.

You can fix the third by using "happen" or "occur" instead of "are."

Or you could use "there":

  • The more we destroy forests, the more there are natural disasters.

The fourth sentence doesn't work at all. ♣

 

Oh, sorry. 

Please accept my apology for causing such confusion. I was supposed to have said that "may I say" instead of "Why I can't say".

Concerning sentences 3 and 4, the reason why they are ungrammatical is that they are not parallel, isn't it? 

As I observe, in the first part, the action verb "destroy" is used, but in the other, the verb "be" is used. So, they are not parallel. 

To be honest, I don't really know. I am just guessing. 

 

novice posted:
Concerning sentences 3 and 4, the reason why they are ungrammatical is that they are not parallel, isn't it? 

As I observe, in the first part, the action verb "destroy" is used, but in the other, the verb "be" is used. So, they are not parallel.

Please note that "sentences 3 and 4" is misleading, because there are no sentences here with such helpful labels. I assume you mean to refer to the the third and fourth sentences in my previous quotation of you:

(3) The more we destroy forests, the more natural disasters are.

(4) The more we destroy forests, the more are natural disasters.

If the reason they don't work is that the same verb isn't used in both parts of the sentences, why do you think I recommended changing "are" to "happen" or "occur" in (3)? Clearly it wasn't to match the verb in the first part ("destroy").

The reason you can't say "the more natural disasters are" is that "Natural disasters are (the) more" doesn't work as a sentence. Your use of inversion in (4) then takes what's bad and makes it even worse.

But, as I said before, if you want to use "are" rather than "occur" or "happen," you can simply add existential "there." Just as we can say, "There are more natural disasters," we can use "the more there are natural disasters." ♣

Thank you, David. How patient you are!

Are you bored with answering my questions? ♥

May I ask the last question in this post? 

Assume that the first part of my question below were correct, would there be two possible choices C and D? 

(I would like to ask that because it was a question in the English -2017- national -test in my country for those who wanted to get higher education, and it caused a lot of controversy because many teachers of English didn't see the given key D as the only answer. According to them, there was more than one suitable answer, and C was totally correct.)

novice posted:

Hi,

The larger the area of forest is destroyed, .......

A. the most frequent natural disasters are

B. the most frequently natural disasters occur

C. the more frequent are natural disasters

D. the more frequently natural disasters occur

Which option is the best to fill in the blank?  

 

novice posted:

 Assume that the first part of my question below were correct, would there be two possible choices C and D? [...]

novice posted:

Hi,

The larger the area of forest is destroyed, .......

A. the most frequent natural disasters are

B. the most frequently natural disasters occur

C. the more frequent are natural disasters

D. the more frequently natural disasters occur

Yes, Novice, if the first part of the sentence were correct, which it isn't, then (C) or (D) would both be possible answers. But I'd prefer no inversion in (C): "the more frequent natural disasters are."

To prove the correctness of (C), you can point to the fact that it is possible to have sentences like this: "Natural disasters are the more frequent the more we destroy forests." ♣

ahmedbtm posted:

This inversion is weird and I haven't seen or used it before.

Hi, Ahmed,

It is a little weird, even for me. I was perfectly content to let your dismissal of (C) stand and to talk about other things instead; but then Novice forced the issue, and I cannot in good grammatical conscience say that (C) is incorrect. Weird though it is, I do find it grammatical.

I find both points confirmed in the literature on this highly idiomatic but extremely complicated construction, which is totally unfit for novices. It is generally acknowledged among linguists who have examined this construction that subject-auxiliary inversion is marginally acceptable in the second clause. See example (50) of this:

http://legacydirs.umiacs.umd.e...erJackendoff1999.pdf

You may never have heard of them, but, among syntacticians and semanticists, Culicover and Jackendoff are two of the greats. Note that their point only applies to subject-auxiliary inversion in the second clause of the correlative comparative construction. This is part of the evidence for that clause's being the main clause.

"Be" has the status of an auxiliary verb, even when it is the main verb of a sentence or clause (i.e., even when it is a pure copula), as evidenced by the fact that we use it in question formation ("Natural disasters are frequent" <--> "Are natural disasters frequent?"). If we change from "are" to "occur," inversion won't work at all:

*The more forest destruction there is, the more occur natural disasters.

However, if we keep "occur" as the main verb but add one or more auxiliaries, subject-auxiliary inversion will once again be acceptable, at least marginally.

The more forest destruction there is, the more do natural disasters occur.

The more forest destruction there is, the more will natural disasters occur.

ahmedbtm posted:

The exam maker knows that 'D' is totally grammatical and acceptable, so why would a student think of 'C' although they have never been taught to use such inversion with this structure?

My advice to the exam makers would not be that they start teaching nonnative speakers to use marginally acceptable inversion in this construction, but rather that they correct the choices by using a verb other than "be," like "occur" or "happen."  Their test question is currently flawed anyway; the first part is totally ungrammatical. ♣

I have just come upon an example of a correlative comparative construction containing inversion in the second clause and would like to share it, lest any skepticism remain as to the (restricted) possibility of using inversion here.

The quotation comes from the seventh chapter of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), an abolitionist novel so influential that Abraham Lincoln famously said that it started the U.S. Civil War.

Quote:

"The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater became Mrs. Shelby's dread of his succeeding in recapturing Eliza and her child, and of course the greater her motive for detaining him by every female artifice."   -- Harriet Beecher Stowe

"The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater became Mrs. Shelby's dread of his succeeding in recapturing Eliza and her child, and of course the greater her motive for detaining him by every female artifice."   -- Harriet Beecher Stowe

Interesting case of full inversion -- rather than just subject-auxiliary inversion as we had seen so far in this thread. One thing is certain: the comparative in this kind of structure can be found to cause inversion in some cases. 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...

Gustavo, Contributor posted:

"The more hopelessly sordid and insensible he appeared, the greater became Mrs. Shelby's dread of his succeeding in recapturing Eliza and her child, and of course the greater her motive for detaining him by every female artifice."   -- Harriet Beecher Stowe

Interesting case of full inversion -- rather than just subject-auxiliary inversion as we had seen so far in this thread. One thing is certain: the comparative in this kind of structure can be found to cause inversion in some cases. 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,

Your comment about the long subject is excellent. I completely agree with you. 

BTW, I still remember your first post on this forum. I think it was about using inversion with a long subject, right? 

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).

I am reading Thomas Merton's famous autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and was reminded yesterday of this thread, when, in reading the book, I came upon another rare instance of a correlative comparative containing inversion in the second clause.

This example more closely resembles Novice's (c) than does the Uncle Tom's Cabin example I gave above, since the clause in question uses "be," it contains "the more," and "the more" modifies an adjective. Actually, "the more" modifies three coordinated adjectives. Enjoy!

Quote:

"The more active Pop became and the more he shouted and gave directions, the more hesitant and doubtful and finally inert was my grandmother."

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (Chapter 1)

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