Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Maybe it's a little long story.
Maybe it's a little longer story.

share|improve this question
    
It depends on the context. Each sentence has a different meaning that would be used in different cases. –  Peter Olson Mar 25 '11 at 4:45
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, first of all, the placement of "story" at the end of the sentence is very strange. Either "it's" should be referring to the story as mentioned in a previous sentence, or you should say "Maybe the story is a little long/longer".

Secondly: "Maybe the story is a little long" means that you could, if you tried, shorten the story up and still cover everything you need. (Perhaps someone said "You rambled a heck of a lot in that story.")

"Maybe the story is a little longer" means that you arrived at the apparent end of the story but you're letting the listeners know that there's actually still something to be told. (Perhaps someone said "What, that was the end?? Awwww, I wanted something more to happen.")

share|improve this answer
    
I get it. It looks like what you say. But I still don't know why. 'Maybe the story is a little longer than what it looks like' ? –  lovespring Mar 26 '11 at 9:22
    
Essentially, yes. It's a little longer than what you've told so far, there's a little more to tell. –  Hellion Mar 26 '11 at 13:45
add comment

Maybe it’s a little long story (wrong)

Maybe it’s a little longer story (wrong)

Those are definitely ungrammatical. A little long and a little longer are both fine adjective phrases, but they can’t be used before a noun like that, I guess because of the determiner a in them. Similarly you can’t say:

It was a the whole night long party. (wrong)

It was a whole night long party. (still wrong)

Anything that appears before a noun like that has to be quite simple in structure.

The pond was only two feet deep. (ok)

It was an only two feet deep pond. (wrong)

The story is familiar to all Russians. (ok)

It is a familiar to all Russians story. (wrong)

However, an adjective modified by an adverb is fine:

Maybe it’s an overly long story. (ok)

Maybe it’s a slightly longer story. (ok)

Maybe this is a totally unnecessary extra example. (ok)

Hellion is right about the difference between long and longer here and the other possible solution:

Maybe the story is a little long. (ok)

Maybe the story is a little longer. (ok)

As a matter of style, I would say “Maybe that isn’t quite the end of the story.”

share|improve this answer
    
"maybe it's a little longer story" is not incorrect as a clause, as in "I know that one was short, but I have another; maybe it's a little longer story." –  oosterwal Mar 25 '11 at 16:45
    
@oosterwal That definitely still sounds ungrammatical to me. I honestly can't even tell what it's supposed to mean. Do you mean that a little longer story is the same as a longer little story? –  Jason Orendorff Mar 25 '11 at 18:52
    
@Jason Orendorff: Consider these variations: A story, a little story, a long story, a longer story, a much longer story, and a little longer story. In terms of 'story' the opposite of 'long' should be 'short', and the opposite of 'little' should be 'big'. In the case of 'little longer story', 'longer' modifies 'story' and 'little' modifies 'longer'; 'little' is synonymous with 'bit' ('bit' meaning 'small amount', not 'binary digit'.) –  oosterwal Mar 25 '11 at 19:15
    
@oosterwal OK, I see what you're saying now. I agree that a little longer and a bit longer are equally acceptable, and synonymous, and the same in grammatical structure. But I find that story is bit longer (with bit modifying longer) and a bit longer story both to be ungrammatical too. You don't? –  Jason Orendorff Mar 25 '11 at 19:43
    
I just realized you and I analyze a bit longer differently. I see a bit as an NP modifying longer: [[a bit] longer]. The same goes for [[two feet] deep]. Both bit and feet are nouns, and so is little in a little longer. –  Jason Orendorff Mar 25 '11 at 19:51
show 5 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

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.