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Which of the following sentence structures is correct, or sounds better?

  1. They grow at a faster rate up to three years after treatment than comparable plants.

  2. They grow at a faster rate than comparable plants up to three years after treatment.

Thanks.

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5  
The second one is clearly preferable, but neither one is particularly clear. I think you are missing a for. –  RegDwigнt Jun 20 '13 at 11:06
    
Thanks very much. Do you mean it should read "for up to three years"? –  Dave Jun 20 '13 at 11:13
    
In addition to putting "for" between "plants" and "up", I think the second sentence should have "other" between "than" and "comparable" so the whole sentence would be "They grow at a faster rate than other comparable plants for up to three years after treatment." –  xxx Jun 20 '13 at 12:59
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@axrwkr Why? I disagree. Other is obvious and implied. Comparable plants must exclude the plants in question. If anything, including other could introduce ambiguity. They grow at a faster rate than other comparable plants prompts the question, "Which other comparable plants?" - some other comparable plants?; all other comparable plants? –  TrevorD Jun 20 '13 at 13:34
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10 litres of conditions in a five-litre container. Use two or more sentences. Boundary conditions are important and should be spelled out clearly, even if redundantly. –  John Lawler Jun 20 '13 at 14:00

4 Answers 4

The second is the closest, but to be perfectly clear, add the word "for":

They grow at a faster rate than comparable plants for up to three years after treatment.

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Both are correct, though the second is preferred stylistically. The general principle is that long, or "heavy" adjuncts should be placed at either the beginning or end of a sentence where possible. This aids comprehension. Shifting of heavy constituents is also useful in the case of relative clauses, which can be quite long. Consider (relative clauses bracketed):

  1. What man [who can look on her beauty and not feel remorse for the way she was treated] is there?
  2. What man is there [who can look on her beauty and not feel remorse for the way she was treated]?

Both are "grammatically correct," but most would agree that the "extraposed" relative clause (#2) is to be preferred from a comprehensibility standpoint, because it does not make you wait forever to hear the predicate, even though the relative clause is separated from the noun it modifies (man).

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I agree with the proposal by @Cyberherbalist, but I would also suggest that the first version could additionally be clarified by adding the little word "do":

They grow at a faster rate for up to three years after treatment than do comparable plants.

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The first would be preferred since the second statement will apply the "up to three years after treatment" to comparable plants than to the former.

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