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Is it correct to say more than what meets the eye? More than meets the eye sounds incorrect, but I've seen a lot of people use it and that confuses me. What acts like an object to the phrase which otherwise seems incomplete.

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What's grammatically incorrect about "more than meets the eye"? – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 12 '12 at 11:41
the "what" acts like an object to the sentence which otherwise seems incomplete/incorrect. – warun Feb 12 '12 at 11:44
Warun, please rewrite your question including all the phrasings of interest in the question itself. In the current wording, "latter" has no referent. – jwpat7 Feb 12 '12 at 16:44
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Both options are perfectly acceptable. One is a noun-phrase (NP) complement of than and the other is a comparative-clause complement. They are structurally equivalent to

  1. there is more than a budget cut
  2. there is more than was included here.

In [1], a budget cut is an NP complement of than. Similarly, what meets the eye is also an NP complement of than.

(That's all you need to know about that construction, but if you want to unpack it a bit more, what meets the eye is like the thing that meets the eye. This is an NP with thing as its head and a relative clause functioning as a modifier. In the case of what meets the eye, the head and the relative are fused: the pronoun what functions both as the head of the NP and the subject in a modifying relative clause.)

The other option is there is more than meets the eye. In this case, meets the eye is a standard comparative clause functioning as complement of than. A comparative clause is different from a main clause in that it typically has a gap (e.g., I'm bigger than [she is _], in which the adjective big is gapped out.) The gap in your sentence is in the subject position (i.e., there is more than [_ meets the eye]) and could be filled by the NP the budget cut, for example, if it were a main clause.

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Thank you, that was very elaborate but if both of them are correct, in what situation would you expect me to use either of them? – warun Feb 12 '12 at 13:26
There's no grammatical or semantic reason to prefer one over the other, so it would be a stylistic choice. Most people use the shorter version. – Brett Reynolds Feb 12 '12 at 13:34
now it makes perfect sense! – warun Feb 12 '12 at 13:35

Both are grammatical, as others have said. But to me

"more than meets the eye"

is a perfectly normal expression, while

"more than what meets the eye"

is something I never recall having heard, and I find it odd — but just because it goes against an established phrase, not for any other reason.

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"What" is odd and goes against the grain because it is not a demonstrative pronoun in modern English. – Jack Robbin Feb 12 '12 at 18:49
It's not demonstrative, it's a sort of relative, and it's normal in other constructions, eg "the same as what I saw". It just isn't customary in this one. – Colin Fine Feb 12 '12 at 22:36

I think it's perfectly fine, especially if you are referring to Transformers.

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I have a knack for writing and in one of my articles I used "...what meets the eye", but I was pretty surprised to find out that most people use "more than meets the eye" which had me thinking so I wanted to confirm my hunch. – warun Feb 12 '12 at 13:34

Compare "The book I wrote" with "The book that I wrote".

This belongs to the same category, where the demonstrative pronoun can be dropped with no loss in meaning. On the contrary, a gain in elegance (simplicity) is achieved.

"More than that, which1 meets the eye" lacks the simple elegance of "More than meets the eye".

Kind of like waiting on the bus as opposed to waiting for the bus. Where, in both cases, the bus is yet to arrive.

But I'll allow that what may in fact be a suitable alternative standard.

1: Standard modern English would prefer that, which to what in this case. More than what meets the eye sounds like a regionalism to me.

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I think I got my answer, thank you. – warun Feb 12 '12 at 12:36
@Jack Is the note all of that below? Or just those two lines? – Alenanno Feb 12 '12 at 12:43
@Alenanno - The note was intended to be just the two lines. The rest (that/what) you see is an afterthought. A post-post scriptum, so-to-speak. – Jack Robbin Feb 12 '12 at 12:53
@JackRobbin I added the note, if I changed something feel free to rollback! :) – Alenanno Feb 12 '12 at 13:20
There shouldn't be a comma between "that" and "which". And "what" is much better than "more than that which meets the eye" anyway. – Peter Shor Feb 12 '12 at 14:10

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