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For years, it irritated me that people kept using "more [adjective]" where there were already dedicated forms making "more" unnecessary. For example, people would say "more tight" than "tighter". I figured people were just being forgetful, but then I see notable publications like The New York Times using "more angry" instead of "angrier".

"They were more angry with Washington and intense in their desires for a smaller federal government and deficit."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html

I've researched online, and I don't see any clear indication that both are acceptable.

Is "more angry" correct and acceptable in this case?

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I'd say it's a matter of ear. Personally I prefer "angrier" myself. –  user730 Dec 25 '10 at 1:12
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In your Washington Post example,

They were more angry with Washington and intense in their desires for a smaller federal government and deficit.

I think that the "more angry" phrasing may be intended as a smoother read for the parallel construction ('more angry ... and (more) intense'), although if that's what they really intended then the second 'more' should probably have been included. Even so, though, perhaps the editor there felt that mixing a single-word comparative form (angrier) with an absolute form (intense) was something to avoid.

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I agree with this analysis. "They were more (angry and intense)" is how I read the sentence, and in this usage you can't use angrier unless you also add another more: "They were angrier and more intense". –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 5 '11 at 14:02
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First, "more angry" is acceptable, and referenced as such in the Merriam-Webster learners dictionary.

And there is a slight difference between "angrier" and "more angry", the former representing a strict comparison ("angrier than ..."), the second expressing an escalation in the degree of anger felt (compared with the same anger felt before).
It is that "escalation" which is easier to represent with the "more".


ShreevatsaR asks:

"When she heard the other story, she became angrier" (or "more angry") — in either case, I see "escalation".

Actually, I would find "angrier" more appropriate because of the comparison between the two stories (causing the anger to rise).
I would use "more angry" where there is no direct external comparison element (as in the OP's question: "They were more angry with Washington".
When you compare anger with anger, "more angry" makes sense to me.
If you compare anger caused by an external element with anger cause by another external element, "angrier" seems more adequate.

Or "Jack was angrier than Jill" / "Jack was more angry than Jill" — in either case I see comparison. So what's the difference?

Here, "more angry" could be used (if only "anger's people" is compared), except if your sentence go on with some explanation for said anger.
"Jack was angrier than Jill because of ..."


Keep in mind this is not an official rule, just my interpretation of how one could choose an expression over the other.
Both can certainly be used without real issue.
My point is just that:

  • "more angry" is not "false"
  • "more angry" could be seen as a "general way" to characterize a state of mind, whereas "angrier" would be a more specific way to compare the consequence of two external factors.

In that way, I don't think one is a "subset" of the other. They can be used to express two different situations.

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Just to clarify, is "angrier" a narrower subset of "more angry", or is there no overlap between the two? –  chimerical Dec 25 '10 at 9:17
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"When she heard the other story, she became angrier" (or "more angry") — in either case, I see "escalation". Or "Jack was angrier than Jill" / "Jack was more angry than Jill" — in either case I see comparison. So what's the difference? –  ShreevatsaR Dec 25 '10 at 9:24
    
@chimerical @ShreevatsaR : I have completed my answer with some precisions, but I don't pretend following a strict rule here ;) –  VonC Dec 25 '10 at 9:46
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I still don't see an example where "more angry" would work and "angrier" wouldn't, or understand what the difference in meaning you say is. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 25 '10 at 12:33
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I think the parallel construction is what did it here. I understand VonC's differentiation as such that "more angry" can only be used when comparing with an implicit "angry" that counts as a lower step on a scale, probably mostly a sequence in time. Perhaps I might re-analyse this (I am not sure) as comparing it with a similar sentence containing a different adverbial constituent, as opposed to with one containing a different noun. I think I agree that this is how most people who would use it actually use it. Even so, I always prefer "angrier" in any case. –  Cerberus Dec 26 '10 at 4:05
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