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I have seen this post for the answer to my question, but this is not much help in case of the question I am going to ask.

Here is an example sentence -

The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile than never before.

than here is a preposition, there is no doubt about that. But before after than acts like a noun. But from dictionary entry against before doesn't say it's a noun.

So what is the explanation?

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5  
Not an answer, but I am wondering about your use of never. I would personally say "more than ever before_". Or actually "more than ever". –  oerkelens May 9 at 13:40
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@oerkelens Or if you omit "never", and place "ever" in place of "never"? –  Man_From_India May 9 at 13:43
    
@oerkelens Actually I have omitted some part of the sentence considering it as ellipses. The sentence I wrote originally is The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile that (it has been) never before* –  Man_From_India May 9 at 13:46
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In the longer version as well, I would use ever instead of never. But I am not sure it's relevant :) –  oerkelens May 9 at 13:48
4  
Add "than never before" to the eggcorn database. –  Peter Shor May 9 at 15:52
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6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

'[T]han here is a preposition, there is no doubt about that.' [OP]

and

'A noun is the only part of speech possible after a preposition'

and

In the accepted phrase 'better than ever before', 'ever' cannot be a noun.

So we have a contradiction. The only question to address really is how many of the above assertions are not true?

If we look at

'It is better than [it] ever [was before]

we find a construction which presents no problems. Here, 'than' is a conjunction; there is no doubt about that. 'Ever' is an adverb.

But in the ellipted version, 'than' is now an ex-conjunction and 'ever' is an ex-adverb. In other words, forcing traditional analyses on elliptical structures will lead to extra-grammatical analyses (ie 'the rules' will be broken).

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I see. Thank you a lot. I got it. But then what are the rules for elliptical structure? I mean with the help of your explanation, I understand this case. But for other cases, when I am going to write on my own? Please I need some help. –  Man_From_India May 9 at 14:17
    
I'm sorry, (and I'm off to watch the cricket :-) ), but there are no easy ways. You have to (a) recognise that there are only 'rules of thumb', guidelines, in English and (b) look up or ask about (when you come across) unusual (to the learner) bits of grammar. You might look up 'extragrammatical idioms' or 'ungrammatical idioms' for a few examples – most of these have probably arisen because of ellipsis. –  Edwin Ashworth May 9 at 14:23
    
@Man_From_India The bowling was too good. Look up all the discussions on ellipsis (the omission of words from structures as opposed to the punctuation mark ...) here for starters. –  Edwin Ashworth May 9 at 19:35
    
Can you provide me with some link? –  Man_From_India May 10 at 13:06
    
Just search under 'ellipsis' and ignore the ones that mean the punctuation mark (...). There's also 'be-deletion', 'whiz-deletion' 'conjunction reduction' and 'conversational deletion'. (Try searches with and without double inverted commas.) John Lawler provides excellent treatments and links. –  Edwin Ashworth May 10 at 13:23
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To prate or not to prate? That is the scortle.

You’ve asked a loaded question when you say, “Can an adverb be noun?” It has hidden assumptions that render both potential answers — that is, either yes or no — in some way wrong.

It’s like asking someone whether they’ve stopped beating their husband yet. No matter whether they answer yes or no, they’ve landed themselves in hot water.

In the husband-beating question, the problems should I hope be self-evident. In yours, let me spell them out for you.

You are assuming that a word in isolation “is” some part of speech. This is never true. Parts of speech and other, broader labels (such as subject, predicate, verbal phrase, adverbial phrase, direct object, &c) are applied to constituents of a phrase or larger utterance once it has been subjected to syntactic analysis — once it has been parsed.

A single word in complete isolation has no part of speech. It cannot. Only when you deduce or infer what role that word is playing in the larger syntactic context can one begin to assign such labels.

For example, what part of speech is each of these words:

  • floop
  • flump
  • plock
  • prate
  • rast
  • ruzz
  • ruzzle
  • rynt
  • scortle
  • tyrn

Kinda tough, right? Would these additions make it any easier?

  • derasted
  • flooped
  • floopess
  • floops
  • flumper
  • flumpette’s
  • nyrt’s
  • plockest
  • prated
  • pratess
  • pratest
  • rastest
  • rastfully
  • ruzzest
  • ruzzled
  • scortle’s

The answer is yes, it helps considerably — but not completely. That’s because what you really need to complete the job is this:

My scortle’s floopess prated me to rastfully flump her the ruzzest plock I could tyrn.

Or perhaps this:

My nyrt’s pratess flooped me to ruzz her the plockest flumper I could scortle the rastest.

Or maybe even this:

My flumpette’s scortle ruzzled me to pratefully plock her the most derasted of floops I could rynt.

I trust you will now have no trouble assigning parts of speech to all of floop, floops, flooped, floopess, flump, flumper, flumpette’s, nyrt’s, plock, plockest, prated, pratess, pratest, ruzz, ruzzest, ruzzled, rynt, scortle, scortle’s, and tyrn.

The flumpette’s rast floop

Or will you?

You see, without having the sentences, you can have no part of speech. And even once you have the sentences, the part-of-speech tag assigned a lexical item in one sentence quite often contradicts the POS assignment in another sentence.

So you see, it makes no sense to ask whether an adverb can be noun. It cannot be, because it is an adverb. That does not mean that a word that is sometimes used as an adverb cannot turn around the next floop and get itself used as noun this time around.

A good example of that is today, tomorrow, and yesterday. Today I have nothing to do, but tomorrow I shall rue the yesterday that I shall by then have squandered. Or, as a better writer than I once said:

She should have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

So whether you classify a word as this or that, it signifies nothing in isolation.

Partes orationis quot sunt?

This is true for Donatus’s eight classical parts of speech, from

Partes orationis quot sunt? Octo. Quae?

  • nomen
  • pronomen
  • verbum
  • adverbium
  • participium
  • coniunctio
  • praepositio
  • interiectio

To the modern analyst’s standard workhorses:

  • articles
  • quantifiers
  • determiners
  • adjectives
  • numbers
  • nouns
  • pronouns
  • clitics
  • verbs
  • proverbs
  • adverbs
  • circumpositions
  • conjunctions
  • contractions
  • expletives
  • interjections
  • negators
  • particles
  • prepositions
  • postpositions

To the subdivider’s nuanced list of:

  • demonstrative adjectives
  • zero article
  • definite articles
  • indefinite articles
  • partitive articles
  • correlative conjunctions
  • coördinating conjunctions
  • subordinating conjunctions
  • count nouns
  • mass nouns
  • proper nouns
  • cardinal numbers
  • direction particles
  • locative particles
  • demonstrative pronouns
  • demonstrative pronouns
  • emphatic pronouns
  • impersonal pronouns
  • indefinite pronouns
  • interrogative pronouns
  • locative pronouns
  • personal pronouns
  • possessive pronouns
  • reciprocal pronouns
  • reflexive pronouns
  • relative pronouns
  • possessive terminers
  • auxiliary verbs
  • bitransitive verbs
  • copular verbs
  • intransitive verbs
  • modal verbs
  • transitive verbs

Because no matter what set you pick — and there are many others besides just these three — when you try to talk about them in the abstract and apply them to a single word in isolation, they are all so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The plocking flumper

In closing, kindly let me commend to you these two scortling answers for unruzzled meditations:

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+1 and I am sorry to hear about your scortle’s floopess. I have to say never really trusted her. –  oerkelens May 9 at 15:57
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This answer already has a question. –  Edwin Ashworth May 9 at 19:42
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The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile than ever before.

As usual with confusing sentences, this one has been done things to.

First, the final /n/ in than has been misheard at some link in the chain and added to ever.
Producing the ungrammatical phrase than never before. That's corrected to ever above.

Second, big chunks of the sentence have been sheared off by several deletion rules; this is normal for a comparative construction, where the machinery of comparison is mostly taken for granted.

Third, and most important, comparative constructions are really complicated. For example,
a stripped-down version of what the comparative construction produces might be

  • The new T resembles F
    more than

    the (previous) T has ever resembled F before.

Since the subject T and the predicate resemble F are mentioned in the first clause,
they get deleted by optional conjunction reduction, leaving only the boldface pieces, both adverbs.

So what we have here in the original sentence is the remains of a deceased clause,
with the repeated parts left out because they're predictable.

And that's why than looks like a preposition. But it's not -- it's part of the comparative construction.
If you want to give it a name, than is the English Comparative Conjunction. It's never used outside
of comparative constructions or one kind or another.

As for the rest, before is an adverb, and the reason you think it "acts like a noun after than"
is because you think than is a preposition, with an object noun. Since it's not a preposition,
all bets are off. Actually, it's a subordinate clause, part of the comparative construction,
but ever before is the only part of that clause that's left standing.

Oh, one final point. Dictionaries do not give all -- or often any -- of the grammar for words. Grammar can't be looked up in a dictionary; particularly English grammar, which is all syntax.

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I would use ever instead of never although I doubt it changes the meaning at all:

The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile than ever before.

I actually read that sentence as:

The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile than [it] ever [was] before.

Or in a simpler sentence:

I have more money now than ever before.
I have more money now than [I] ever [had] before.

The same goes for:

I feel better today than yesterday.
I feel better today than [I felt] yesterday.

Why should ever before or yesterday be acting as a noun?

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Exactly how "ever before" acting as noun? –  Man_From_India May 9 at 13:47
    
Who says it is acting as a noun? Can you explain why you think it is acting as a noun? –  oerkelens May 9 at 13:48
    
See in "on a table", "on" is a preposition, and "a table" is a noun. In case of "than before", "than" is a preposition, and "before" is an adverb. How is it possible? –  Man_From_India May 9 at 13:50
    
@Man_From_India So you're saying that prepositions must always be followed by a noun. This answer demonstrates that's not so. –  Andrew Leach May 9 at 14:03
    
@AndrewLeach Actually I have no idea, I thought it is the case. Can you please make me correct? –  Man_From_India May 9 at 14:13
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The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile than ever before or The new design of Twitter profile is more of a Facebook profile, never before had it been so similar.

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The Oxford English Dictionary does have a listing for "before" as a noun, meaning "in front of" or "an earlier period of time" (with the example of "from before", which doesn't yield to the ellipsis theory as well as "than before"). So the answer is, yes, it can be a noun. But it's not because an adverb can be a noun; it's because "before" can be an adverb or a noun (or a preposition or a conjunction) depending on the context.

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