Are there any adverbs/pronouns (or sentence constructs) that fulfilled the gradation role of more and less in Early Modern English, that currently fell out of use or exist only in marginal, archaic or domain-specific speech?

example: how could one rephrase these sentences into Early Modern English, so that they don't use the the words 'more' or 'less'?

You did more for me than you imagine.

Less gawking, more helping!

I should study that some more.

I meant that more... figuratively.

Pour me some more coffee, please.

(note, if there are no such words, an answer that states so is perfectly acceptable)

  • Can you give an example of what you mean? None of your examples are achaic
    – mplungjan
    Feb 10, 2014 at 9:29
  • @mplungjan: If I could give such examples I wouldn't need to ask this question!
    – SF.
    Feb 10, 2014 at 9:33
  • @mplugan: For example, if I were to look for synonym for the word 'that', in context "What is that place over there?", I could use yon, which is an acceptable synonym of "that" for context of location within view, and the sentence could be written as "What is yon stead?"
    – SF.
    Feb 10, 2014 at 9:52
  • So you are looking for "Have some xxxx ale" where xxxx is a word which is an earlier word than more? Like "Have a grander helping of ale" ?
    – mplungjan
    Feb 10, 2014 at 10:07
  • @mplungjan: Precisely.
    – SF.
    Feb 10, 2014 at 10:13

1 Answer 1


I am not aware of any other word used like ‘less’ in this manner in Old or Middle English.

For ‘more’, though, there is the related and in earlier times separate (though now fully defunct) mo. The OED entry has quite a few examples from both Old English and Middle English, as well as a few from Early Modern English:

c1387–95 Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol. 576 Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten.
c1330 (▸?a1300) Sir Tristrem (1886) l. 613 (MED), He..redily ȝaf him..Ten schilinges and ma.
1483 (▸1413) Pilgrimage of Soul (Caxton) iv. vii. 61 This fayre grene appel tree..said..I ne bere neuer no mo but this one appel.
a1616 Shakespeare Tempest (1623) v. i. 237 With..noyses Of roring,..gingling chaines, And mo diuersitie of sounds.

There is even a quote with mo or less:

c1426 J. Audelay Poems (1931) 78 Fore þiself furst þou pray..And fore men and wemen mo and lees.

– which shows that ‘less’, at least, was used back then exactly as it is now. ‘More’ gradually took over the role of mo later on, starting in Late Middle English, gaining pace in Early Modern English, and finally ousting it completely (except dialectally) during the 17th and 18th centuries.

  • Mo is revived in some dialects as a contraction of more to mo', as in Mo' Better Blues. But yes, if the querent is looking to phrase "more" in a way that would have been done in Early Modern Period, that it would not in most dialects today, nor in a formal register today, then mo would be perfect.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 10, 2014 at 10:17
  • Truth be told, I don’t know with any certainty whether the modern mo’ is a revival of the earlier mo (< mā/mǣ), or whether it is simply a (restricted?) sound change in some dialects, incurring the loss of /r/ after a back vowel in monosyllabics (cf. fo’ sho’ = ‘for sure’, though I’ve never heard of anyone going through a do’ or doing a cho’). Feb 10, 2014 at 10:21
  • Sorry, I didn't mean revival as in a concious going back, simply that the applying of a quite common mutation had resulted in a replication of an older form, by coincidence.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 10, 2014 at 10:44

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