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Today I described someone as being trained to react "more poorly" to a given situation. Her current reaction is poor. It is becoming more poor. So she reacts more poorly. Is this correct? It sounds awkward.

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It works; here "more" is acting as an adverb, and an adverb can modify another adverb. – user730 Dec 13 '10 at 16:43
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The British National Corpus has 13 cites for "more poorly", and the Corpus of Contemporary American English has 83 (including 8 for "even more poorly" and 1 for "more and more poorly"). Google returns about 826k results. So it's obviously being used and understood. And, as J. M. points out, it's not ungrammatical, either. (Now, if you were asking for possible alternatives, that would be a different question.)

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I'm curious as to how many of the BNC and Google citations are for "poorly" as an adjective meaning "sick" or "ill" (a usage common in parts of the UK), where "more poorly" would thus mean "sicker" or "more ill". – Steve Melnikoff Dec 13 '10 at 17:19
@Steve: obviously, I can't double-check 826,000 Google results, but as far as BNC is concerned, and as far as I can see, exactly 0 out of the 13 cites have to do with illness. ( See for yourself ). – RegDwigнt Dec 13 '10 at 19:24
Thanks Reg! But what do you mean you can't check the 826,000 Google results? ;-) – Steve Melnikoff Dec 13 '10 at 19:27

From a strictly semantic standpoint "more poorly" is acceptable. It does sound a bit akward, as you said. In your situation, "moor poorly" might be better stated as "less appropriately" or something along those lines.

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Technically, it is not grammatically wrong, but just using the word "worse" is likely more straightforward and colorful. Compare:

He did more poorly on the test.


He did worse on the test.

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+1: Using worse is definitely more better. ;) – Satanicpuppy Dec 13 '10 at 21:40

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