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Buying on margin means borrowing money from a broker to buy more securities than can be purchased with one's own money alone.

  1. I was wondering if than in the above example is a conjunction or preposition?
  2. Is there some word left out in the part after than? If yes, is the complete sentence

    Buying on margin means borrowing money from a broker to buy more securities than what can be purchased with one's own money alone.

    Added: "can be purchased", the part after "than", is not a complete sentence because of lacking the subject, compared to a more usual example "He is taller than I am".

  3. Can somebody explain a little more about the usage of than in examples like this? I would like to understand how the sentence is grammatically correct.
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1 Answer

No, there is nothing missing. Stripping the sentence down to the construction in question, we get ‘more securities than can be purchased.’ This is on the same pattern as, say, ‘more food than can be eaten’, and is perfectly grammatical.

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Thanks! But "can be purchased", the part after "than", is not a complete sentence because of lacking the subject, compared to a more usual example "He is taller than I am". –  Tim Sep 21 '11 at 12:27
    
The subject is implicit. Fully expanded the sentence would read ‘Buying on margin means borrowing money from a broker to buy more securities than those securities which can be purchased with one's own money alone.’ –  Barrie England Sep 22 '11 at 8:05
    
Thanks! (1) In this expansion, is "than" a prep or conj? (2) It looks like a prep, since what follows "than" is a noun not a sentence. In this sense, can I replace "those securities which" by "what"? (3) If I want to use "than" as a conj, can I say "Buying on margin means borrowing money from a broker to buy more securities than those securities can be purchased with one's own money alone." because the part after "than" now is a complete sentence. –  Tim Sep 22 '11 at 8:10
    
@Tim: Sorry not to have replied sooner, but I’ve only just seen your comment. ‘Than’ here is a subordinating conjunction (often termed simply a subordinator) joining the two clauses ‘Buying . . . securities’ and ‘can . . . alone.’ If you replace ‘those securities which’ by ‘what’, you leave it unclear as to what it is being referred to. If you wanted to use the sentence in (3), you’d have to insert ‘that’ (or ‘which’) between ‘securities’ and ‘can’. –  Barrie England Nov 11 '11 at 11:16
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