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I was recently pulled up by a colleague when I made a statement along the lines of I am a better player than her. My colleague suggested the correct statement should be better player than she is because her is a possessive pronoun, and my colleague was waiting to hear what noun her referred to.

I was unconvinced. I am able to say: I am taller than Jim, which can become I am taller than him. So, just because her is both the feminine possessive and personal pronoun why does that exclude me from saying I am taller than her?

Or, have I made a false assumption, and should never have a noun/pronoun without a verb at the end of a comparative structure? Should I always have been saying I am taller than Jim is, and Rabbits are faster than turtles are? This seems awfully cumbersome

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'her' is also an accusative pronoun, which is how i functions in your first example sentence. –  Mitch Dec 5 '11 at 22:39
    
"Taller" is an adjective while "better player" is a noun phrase. I think that's probably a factor in the explanation but I don't have a formal rule for you. –  Monica Cellio Dec 5 '11 at 23:06
    
@Monica: I don't think that makes any difference. Both taller than and a better player than are adjectival phrases. When we're talking about idiomatic usages like this, deconstructing to any lower level probably doesn't get us anywhere. Even at the next level up, where we follow on with she, she is, or her, we're still looking at adjectival phrases, and the actual preferred usage is primarily dictated by idiomatic convention rather than logic or "old-school" grammar. –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 1:30
    
@Jim: Apart from it being more cumbersome, I think you personally should avoid saying "I am taller than Jim is" on the grounds that it may be logically confusing for the rest of us! :) –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 1:34

3 Answers 3

I think your colleague may be getting at the idea that than is a conjunction, not a preposition. This is a long-running dispute. Those who argue that than is a conjunction, claim that it is followed by a clause in which the verb phrase can be elided. When that happens, the only word left must be the subject of the clause. Since her cannot be a subject, it would be considered wrong. Other people consider than to be a preposition. If that's the case, then they reason, a pronoun following it would be an object, so her would be correct. Both forms are used, but the than she form is formal in register while the than her is neutral.

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I had also played around with better than she but it seemed a different kind of wrong: by using the subject pronoun (she) without a verb where I'd expect an object one. And yes I agree, it also seems overly formal –  Jim Dec 5 '11 at 22:57
    
which is to say that '... better than she.' is ...I was about to say 'wrong' but it should not be considered grammatical, except that it is becoming more and more common. –  Mitch Dec 5 '11 at 23:22
    
+1 really good answer. Explains different ways people are being prescriptive, in a descriptive way. –  alcas Dec 6 '11 at 1:04
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@Mitch: If you're suggesting "I'm better than she" is ungrammatical then I have to disagree. Over the last 2-3 centuries it's becoming more common to either append "is", or switch to "her", but none of them are ungrammatical or "wrong". –  FumbleFingers Dec 6 '11 at 1:20

The fact that the possesive pronoun has the same form as the accusative of the personal pronoun is what seems to be at the origin of this confusion. You also can say: Look at her! or I asked him. These are examples that clearly imply the use of accusative and they're perfectly correct.

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This isn't really a matter of logic or grammatical correctness - it's about idiomatic usage.

Grammatically, it's fine to say "I am taller than he", and I suspect this form may even have been more common than either "he is" or "him" a century or two ago. It just sounds a bit dated/stilted/formal today.

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