English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the proper word to fill the blank?

The more cars there are on a given road, the __ the traffic will move.

The answer is slower. But I wonder whether less is incorrect.

share|improve this question
Yes, less is incorrect. Less and slower are not synonymous. – mattacular Mar 1 '13 at 6:14
@mattacular Not being synonymous is no reason for either to be incorrect. – Kris Mar 1 '13 at 8:23
Make your question clearer by stating that you want to know the grammatical error in using less in the example sentence. – Kris Mar 1 '13 at 8:26

Yes, less is incorrect because it's not a word that is normally used to describe the movement of cars being driven in traffic. Such cars move slowly or quickly, slow or fast, and forward or backward. I suppose we'd say that one car was moving more or less than another only in an earthquake, when it's not moving under its own power.

share|improve this answer
"And if this happens, then the result will be that even less traffic will move than might be carried. "- books.google.com/books?id=gv88AAAAMAAJ – Noah Mar 1 '13 at 6:32

Both would be grammatical, but only slower would be logical. Because if you have more cars, then the traffic will be slow not less.

share|improve this answer
But the traffic would also move less. Less movement. – deadly Mar 1 '13 at 9:03
@deadly: that would not be the case. – Noah Mar 1 '13 at 9:18
I think you need to elaborate that point. In your answer you don't address the fact that it is the movement that is being compared, not the traffic directly. – deadly Mar 1 '13 at 9:29
''The more cars there are on a given road, the ( ) the traffic will move.'' This is an interesting construction; -the more is surely a quantifier but a comparative adverb is required to replace the placeholder. 'The bigger they come, the harder they fall' 'balances' comparative adjective with comparative adverb. Interesting. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 1 '13 at 9:33

Slower would be perhaps be the more usual choice, but it depends on the context of the sentence and the intent of the author.

However, either slower or less would work grammatically.

As Andrew Leach says, a comparative is required, which slower and less both are.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.