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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.

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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
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
@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
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
up vote 6 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.

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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
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
@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".

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"better than I" may sound stilted, but I don't think it's incorrect. – Lynn Aug 31 '12 at 5:21
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
@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

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