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I saw one topic on the wordreference forum discussing whether a sentence could begin with "Different from" (see the post). The example sentences in that post are

A: Different from Drug A, Drug B can also be administered orally.
B: Unlike Drug A, Drug B can also be administered orally.

It is said that in a textbook (see the pdf, however, it's written in Japanese), sentence A is considered to be a "not so good" expression.

So, is this assertion true? In addition, I think although sentence A is not so good, it is grammatically right, because the verb of the sentence is be---am I right?

Thank you.


EDIT 1

To state the question more precisely, I am concerned with the correctness of this form:

  • Adj phrase, Subject + Be + ...

For a simple example,

Similar to me, he is tall.

I don't know why but, I think the sentence above sounds OK (at least more OK than a sentence starting with "Different from") ... Is there any explanation in the formal grammar?


EDIT 2

Still, I am a little confused about the difference between my example and the detached predicative supplement. In Angela Downing's book English Grammar: A University Course, Second Edition, on page 482, it says:

Detached predicatives ... are a type of supplementive unit, that is, a unit used non-restrictively ... Syntactically, they are not integrated into the unit which they modify. They are thus free as regards position, though in practice they are usually found in initial rather than final or medial positions. They provide an economical means of adding contextual information which fills out the reader's perception of the person or thing referred to. They are common in certain written genres and generally absent from conversation.

The corresponding example sentence in this grammar book is

Angry and tearful, Susan walked out.

It seems this sentence is short for "Being angry and tearful, Susan walked out." So, though it sounds a little like a pedant, the sentence

(Being) Different from Drug A, Drug B can also be administered orally.

might be grammatically right ...

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The expressions different from and different to are perfectly acceptable in the right place. (Brits would not normally use different than.)

But I don't think different from sounds appropriate (or is used correctly) in your example sentence. The second sentence certainly sounds much better.

First (and I should make clear I'm speaking as a Brit!), I don't think we would normally start a sentence with Different from. It's difficult to explain why, but it just doesn't sound right!

Secondly. I think your context would require differently from because it's the method of administration of the drug that is being compared, and in the sentence you quote can be administered is a verb. Effectively, you are saying Drug B can also be administered orally, whereas Drug A cannot (be administered orally). Even so, I still would not start the sentence with different(ly) from.


Comments below are subsequent to OP's edit.

Similar to me, he is tall. sounds just as wrong to me as does the original Different from phrase. Unfortunately, again, I find it difficult to explain why. (But in this instance, I don't think I would use the word similar in any event.)

I think it is probably because the comparison actually relates to the height (of the person), which is a characteristic of the subject, whereas the juxtaposition of the adjectival phase and the subject itself suggests otherwise. These would be OK:

  • He is tall, as am I.
  • His height is similar to mine

As I suggested in relation to different from, if you were to retain the current sentence structure, I think Similarly to me ... would be marginally better, but still wouldn't sound 'right'!


Since writing the above, I've consulted a couple of grammar books. These seem to confirm that, in both instances, you need an adverbial phrase - not an adjectival phrase. I think the basic problem with your sentence construction is the presence of (what should be) an adverbial phase adjacent to the subject.


Comments below are subsequent to OP's second edit.

Being angry and tearful, Susan walked out is fine because the adverbial phrase relates to Susan herself.

But even Being different from Drug A, Drug B can also be administered orally. does not sound correct. The fact that it's (just) different from Drug A does not, of itself, mean Drug B can be administered orally. The drugs could differ in other ways without affecting their methods of administration. The issue is not that the drugs themselves are different, but that their methods of administration are (or can be) different.

On the other hand, something like Being available in liquid form, Drug B can also be administered orally. would be fine. In this case, the adverbial phrase is directly related to Drug B and its form.

That may be why Unlike Drug A, Drug B can also be administered orally. is also quite acceptable, because in that sentence the comparison is directly related to their methods of administration - it's not just saying that they are different drugs.

Difference and similarity both concern comparisons between two things - or, more correctly, particular properties/characteristics of two things, and therefore the words different(ly) from and similar(ly) to need to relate to the properties/characteristics of those 'things' and not just to the subject of the sentence (the 'thing' itself).

I don't know whether there is a grammatical reason as such, or whether "that's just the way it is". But, as I'm sure you know, the English language cannot always be determined by strict rules. Sometimes the only answer is that that's the way it has evolved!!

I hope this gives you a bit more understanding - but, as I say, there are not always easy or straight-forward answers to questions regarding the English language.

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Thank you for your patience :) Although I'm not sure if it's convincing for my colleagues, it seems avoiding that expression would be better. –  Stan May 23 '13 at 13:40
    
Someone told me he found the detached predicative may be an argument that supports the grammatical correctness of the sentence "Different from ..." What do you think about that? –  Stan May 23 '13 at 16:24
    
I don't know anything about that - but I think my recent edit addresses the issue in a different fashion. –  TrevorD May 23 '13 at 17:06
    
Great answer. I finally understand some English thought. –  Stan May 23 '13 at 17:49
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There is nothing wrong with "different from", but you can also use "different to" which is my preference. "different than" is fairly common in American English although it is not considered to be correct (although it is).

Oxford Dictionaries reference.

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I think you haven't read my question carefully. I'm not discussing the distinction among "different from/to/than", but the correctness of the form "Adjective ..., Subject + Be + ...". –  Stan May 23 '13 at 10:44
    
You can start a sentence with all three versions, but it is not considered a good style and you certainly cannot start a paragraph with it as you need context. –  user44617 May 23 '13 at 10:48
    
@Stan: your question seems to be all about 'different'. If you care about 'adj-subject-to be', then edit and say that in your question. –  Mitch May 23 '13 at 12:09
    
I can't recall ever encountering "different to" in US English. –  gmcgath May 23 '13 at 12:38
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@gmcgath: "different to" is used quite frequently in British English although I have found more in official or academic prose. This article shows that it is rarely used in US English. –  user44617 May 23 '13 at 14:44
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