...on Finnis's view all distinct instances of basic goods are incommensurable — none is of more, less, or equal value with any other. — Source

I expect to see more or less than any other, but then equal shows up, and is followed by with. But since with any other cannot replace than any other, do you think this sentence illegitimately omits something?

2 Answers 2


The Guide to Grammar and Writing - Capital Community College Foundation states:

Prepositions in Parallel Form

When two words or phrases are used in parallel and require the same preposition to be idiomatically correct, the preposition does not have to be used twice.

      You can wear that outfit in summer and [in] winter.
      The female was both attracted [by] and distracted by the male's dance.

However, when the idiomatic use of phrases calls for different prepositions, we must be careful not to omit one of them.

       The children were interested in and disgusted by the movie.
  • +1 Prepositions so used are called coordinated prepositions
    – Talia Ford
    Oct 30, 2013 at 18:34
  • In a parallel series of prepositional phrases, repeat the preposition with every element unless they all use the same preposition. A common error occurs when a writer lets two or more of the phrases share a single preposition but inserts a different one with another element: WRONG: I looked for my lost keys in the sock drawer, the laundry hamper, the restroom, and under the bed. RIGHT: I looked for my lost keys in the sock drawer, in the laundry hamper, in the restroom, and under the bed. (The under spoiled it.) More on parallelism: grammarphobia.com/blog/2012/06/parallel.html
    – Talia Ford
    Oct 30, 2013 at 18:39
  • +1 - What? No opinions on Finnis? I deleted my own answer out of a desire to avoid more downvotes. Enough blood has been spilled today. I'd need a transfusion. I'm trying to jack my rep up to 3,000 so I can vote to close questions -- and this wouldn't help. Oct 30, 2013 at 23:41

I think that the original sentence does have faulty parallelism because it collects two words that naturally take than (more and less) and one that naturally takes to (equal) and associates all three of them with with instead. Complicating the situation is the fact that the extract is talking about the value of instances of basic goods—which takes us three levels deep into the subject of "basic goods." To correct the sentence, I would rephrase the last part to say this:

no instance has a value greater than, less than, or equal to the value of any other instance.

That wording enables us to make the parallelism clear across the three comparisons without repeating "value" each time. Replacing "none" with "no instance" is a minor simplification to help readers avoid having to go back to the section before the em-dash to see what "none" points to (instances," not "goods"). As a matter of style, you could replace the second occurrence of "value" with "that," and you could drop the last word (instance) altogether; but the more complicated a sentence gets, the happier a reader is likely to be to encounter clear-cut nouns rather than referents to nouns located elsewhere.

The whole excerpt, revised for maximum definiteness, would thus read:

...on Finnis's view, all distinct instances of basic goods are incommensurable—no instance has a value greater than, less than, or equal to the value of any other instance.

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