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We do say "… is equal to…", but we say "… is greater than…".

What happens when we mix those? What should we say:

  • "… is greater or equal to…" (297,000,000 hits on Google), or
  • "… is greater or equal than…" (286,000,000 hits)?

… or maybe even "… is equal or greater than…"?

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3 Answers

up vote 37 down vote accepted

None of those are really correct.

The correct wording would be:

"...is greater than or equal to..."

Conversely, if we were discussing the opposite:

'...is less than or equal to..."

In a mathematical formula:

X is greater than or equal to Y. Z is less than or equal to P.

To finish our thought:

"Stack Exchange is greater than everything else...it has no equal."

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Beat me by 22 secs so -1. But +2 for 'SE is greater than...'. –  TimLymington Aug 17 '11 at 14:59
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+1 for your +2! Wait, does that mean I have to +3 now? I've confused myself. Time for more coffee. –  RGW1976 Aug 17 '11 at 15:01
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-1 for is lesser than. Not standard English at all. –  FumbleFingers Aug 17 '11 at 15:05
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Thanks for pointing that out FF, have edited. As I mentioned to Tim, simply haven't had enough coffee yet this morning. -Rick –  RGW1976 Aug 17 '11 at 15:15
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No, you should say "is greater than or equal to". If you use two words taking different prepositions, there really is no alternative.

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"is equal to, or greater than" would be a valid alternative, but nobody says that, that I've ever heard. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 17 '11 at 15:11
    
@Mr. Shiny - Tim probably meant that there's no alternative to using both prepositions. –  David Harkness Aug 18 '11 at 2:22
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It's a bit "lax", but people do sometimes omit the first preposition...

  • X is greater or equal to Y

  • X is equal or greater than Y

I personally do not recommend this, although I will say it's "less unacceptable" to me if "Y" has already been referred to in some way, and is simply being restated in different words in this phrase. For example...

  • Janet is rich, but John's wealth is equal or greater than hers.

...being a construction where many would allow that the sentence could end at "equal" and still be grammatically acceptable. In any event, the second preposition must always agree with the second comparative.

Note that the opposite relationship is less than, not lesser than.

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That's a different construction. You could certainly say "... but John's wealth is greater." You could probably say "...but John's wealth is equal or greater." The reason you can't say *"...but John's wealth is equal or greater than hers" is the same reason you can't say *"...is equal or greater to hers". –  TimLymington Aug 18 '11 at 8:42
    
@TimLymington: You seem to be just saying you can't just drop one of the two prepositions, but the fact is some people do. You accept it yourself in close variants of my example. –  FumbleFingers Aug 18 '11 at 12:06
    
No, I'm saying that dropping both prepositions can be done, with care, but leaving one in cannot. This is one of the rare cases where no matter what 'some people do', logic makes the usage indefensible. (I'm not entirely happy about using that defence anyhow, but this probably isn't the place.) –  TimLymington Aug 19 '11 at 9:42
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