Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which of the following constructions is / are correct?

  • He is better than I.
  • He is better than I am.

PS: I'm unfamiliar with this site and its workings, so forgive me if my question fails to follow the community guidelines. If there are any improvements I can make to the question, please do point them out.

share|improve this question
2  
Thanks for your question. It is a fine question; one that meets with community guidelines. However, an equivalent question has already been asked. If the answers to english.stackexchange.com/questions/3447 don't fully answer your question, please feel free to update your question to explain what's still confusing. –  nohat Aug 31 '12 at 3:54
1  
Yes, I've seen that question. I notice that the my question has been asked by the OP in the third point, but as far as I can see, it has not been addressed directly. –  Vicky Chijwani Aug 31 '12 at 4:03
1  
@nohat: I'm not completely convinced. That one is mostly about he/him, but OP here isn't asking about me/I. The matter of "...than he can" was barely mentioned. –  FumbleFingers Aug 31 '12 at 4:05
    
I see. Can you explain why you would think that only one of them could be correct? –  nohat Aug 31 '12 at 4:05
1  
I think most people would say omitting the "am" here is just a bit formal or stilted. We usually do include it. (or, we say "He is better than me" anyway! :) –  FumbleFingers Aug 31 '12 at 4:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

They are both grammatical, the first being a truncated form of the second. In both, than functions as a conjunction. However, He is better than I sounds hopelessly formal, at least in British English. The usual form is the equally grammatical He is better than me, where than functions as a preposition. When a preposition is followed by a pronoun, the pronoun is in the accusative case.

share|improve this answer
    
This is one case where prescriptive language mavens still seem to rule the roost. Google Books "works harder than I":5050 results, "works harder than me":279 results. But if I try to page through them, there are actually only 44 and 42 results respectively, and many of those 44 are in fact grammarians setting out their idea of "correct" usage. –  FumbleFingers Sep 4 '12 at 14:38
    
@FumbleFingers: And you might expect the more formal construction in books than in speech. –  Barrie England Sep 4 '12 at 15:49
1  
Precisely. I'm solidly behind your "He is better than I sounds hopelessly formal". I think those prescriptivists who say that's the "correct" form are the same ones whose injunction against splitting infinitives it's my mission to boldly take issue with. –  FumbleFingers Sep 4 '12 at 16:13
    
@FumbleFingers Descriptivism is no excuse for sloppy grammar! ;-) –  Pitarou Sep 5 '12 at 4:34
1  
@Pitarou: 'Sloppy grammar' usually means constructions that the speaker or writer doesn't like. –  Barrie England Sep 5 '12 at 6:03

"He is better than I" is not the correct way of saying it.. neither would "He is better than I am" sound correct. It would actually be "He is better than me".

share|improve this answer
2  
"better than I" may sound stilted, but I don't think it's incorrect. –  Lynn Aug 31 '12 at 5:21
2  
Many millions of native speakers of English would disagree with this answer. Some of them may even know better than I. –  user16269 Aug 31 '12 at 5:30
    
But somehow we use "Me" in such sentence that saying "I" doesn't sound right.. May be I am wrong!! –  Apoorva Aug 31 '12 at 5:49
3  
@Apoorva, David Wallace: I think as Barrie says, the "bare" form "You know better than I" is rather stilted/formal, so I'd go for "me" there. But here's the evidence that with longer forms such as "[You] know better than I how [to deal with this problem]", we don't use "me" very often at all (though usage is on the increase). –  FumbleFingers Aug 31 '12 at 17:34
    
@FumbleFingers: I think that's because in longer forms, it's clear that this has to be a case of ellipsis. –  Peter Shor Sep 4 '12 at 13:20

protected by RegDwigнt Aug 31 '12 at 11:25

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.