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Is it incorrect to phrase a comparison in the following way:

Men are prone more than women to depression.

Or must the adjective always follow more?

Men are more prone than women to depression.

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5 Answers 5

Since you are expressing a comparison in a particular quality between the two sets, you should use a comparative construction.

Many adjectives have natural comparative equivalents: "good" and "better," "dumb" and "dumber." However, many more adjectives lack any natural comparative; there is no such word as "beautifuler" or "proner." In such cases we form a comparative using the strict construction: more [adjective].

This can give rise to ambiguity in sentences that could be modified in other ways by including the word more. The example you present could use this modifier to indicate the frequency rather than the extent to which men are prone to depression when compared to women.

It's a moot point in this particular case due to that fact that the word prone is used here to express a potential for, rather than an actual, occurrence and therefore frequency and extent are conceptually conflated (I think Kosmonaut touched on this.) If we were to take a clearer example, this issue might be more obvious:

Boys are more accurate than girls.

Boys are accurate more than girls.

You might almost be able to "hear" the missing word in the second sentence:

Boys are accurate more [often] than girls

...meaning their answers or endeavors are accurate more of the time, regardless of how much more accurate. This does not carry the same meaning as the first sentence, which states that a boy's endeavors or answers are, in general, nearer to exact or correct, regardless of how frequently. The adjective accurate is not itself being measured and compared for the two sets here, so the more modifier is used elsewhere to modify the sentence.

So, when framing a comparative sentence, one should use the standard construction of more [adjective] as though it is a single comparative adjective, provided it is the quality itself that you wish to compare. If you wish to compare the frequency of occurrence of an arbitrary but uniform quality, you do not need to modify the adjective but should otherwise modify the sentence to make clear what you are comparing. If there is little distinction between the two concepts (as in your example) then I would recommend the standard more [adjective] as it is more natural.

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I would actually go with either of the two following wordings:

  • Men are prone to depression more than women.
  • Men are more prone to depression than women.

Both of the above sound much more natural to me than your second sentence:

  • Men are more prone than women to depression.

Which, in turn, still sounds more natural than your first one:

  • Men are prone more than women to depression.
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The adjective always follow more.

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The preferred word order is:

Men are more prone than women to depression.

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Okay, thanks - but does reversing the word order change or confuse the meaning in any way? –  Ilana Nov 1 '10 at 14:42
    
Reversing the word order doesn't change the meaning in any significant way. –  JSBձոգչ Nov 1 '10 at 16:29
1  
I think this is grammatically incorrect, technically. At least, saying "Men are more prone to depression than women" is wrong, the correct is "Men are more prone to depression than women are." So in this order it'd be "Men are more prone than women are to depression", which sounds strange, true.. –  Claudiu Nov 1 '10 at 21:28

Those two word orders mean two different things.

  1. Men are prone more than women to depression.
  2. Men are more prone than women to depression.

Sentence (2) means that men have a higher susceptibility to depression than women do.

Sentence (1) means that men are susceptible to depression more often than women.

So, you can't use the word order in (1) if you mean (2).

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2  
Eh? I don't perceive any difference at all between these two word orders, other than that the first sounds wrong. –  JSBձոգչ Nov 1 '10 at 16:30
    
@JSBangs: Hm. Well, I don't know. Dialect difference, I guess? –  Kosmonaut Nov 1 '10 at 16:45
    
@JSBangs: Where are you from? It sounds fine to me. It's sort of a shortening of "Men are pron more than women are". –  Jon Purdy Nov 2 '10 at 0:08
1  
@Boofus: If I take a similar, more straightforward sentence: "Men are angry more than women" vs. "Men are more angry than women". Does the "more often" interpretation work for you there? If not, then I have to say, in such situations, I am inclined to chalk this up to a difference in dialect than actually argue for an objectively correct interpretation. We are both native speakers, after all. –  Kosmonaut Nov 2 '10 at 19:35
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@Kosmo: your new example works for me. I'm off to ponder why "prone" doesn't work that way in my head. –  J.T. Grimes Nov 2 '10 at 19:58

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