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Their yellowish eyes were fixed upon Harry’s wand, and they looked scared. There might be a lot more of them than there were of him but Harry could tell, by the looks on their faces, that they knew no more magic than the giant squid did. (Harry Potter 4)

I couldn’t find this expression in my dictionaries, so I went to a Google search. Here are some examples.

  • What about those who wanted to use more and more energy and not worry where it was coming from? There are a lot more of them than there is of him. And it is all their fault as well.

  • There were a hell of a lot more of them(termites) than there was of me but I had chemicals on my side.

I’d like to know especially the following points.

  1. What is the meaning of the “more”? (Number of people? Chances of winning?)

  2. Why do some examples say “than there were of him” and others say “than there is of him”? (I mean it plural-singular question, not tense)

I'd appreciate it if you could help me.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This construction is usually (or often, anyway) used in team situations:

There were more of us than there were of them.

"More of XX" meaning more people on the team. However, it is also used (perhaps ironically/humourously) when one team has only a single person. In that case, there are always more of them than of him/her.

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Shiny and New Thank you for reading my confusing English and understanding what I meant. Your comment gave me an Aha! experience. Thank you. –  user7493 Apr 22 '11 at 2:35
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  1. "More" means number. "He" is only one against a larger number of something (people, termites etc.)

  2. is/were seems to be the tense - present/past tense.

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Thank you for your answer. I’m afraid, it seems I couldn’t convey what I meant in the second question due to my awkward English. Sorry about that. But now I understand clearly “more” means number. Thank you! –  user7493 Apr 22 '11 at 2:34
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This figure is seen when a writer or speaker wishes to portray someone battling against great odds. If I say "There are more of them than there are of me" I simply mean that I am fighting a lone battle against a large number of opponents, whether those opponents are termites or people who waste energy.

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I’m really interested in your answer. May I ask … do you mean 'simply' by the word simply? I mean, could I take your answer that the phrase is neutral in the writer’s playful spirit in the expression? In that case, I’m wondering how I should take the difference between “than there were of him” and “than there was of him”, though your explanation is convincing because I can imagine an idiomatic expression of my mother tongue from your comment. –  user7493 Apr 22 '11 at 9:55
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