Can someone diagram the sentences

  1. He does more than necessary.
  2. He does more than is necessary.

please? (Say, using an X-bar tree.)

Also, there seems to be a secondary clause in the sentences (or at least in 2): what's the name of that kind of clause?

  • 8
    Can you show us what you've got so far? This smells like a homework assignment.
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 16:43
  • 3
    @Dancrumb, heh, it's not homework; I'm not in school. In any event, I was guessing something like NP He, VP (V does (direct-object-NP (N [that] some-sorta-subclause (NP [which] VP [is] more than (is) necessary)))).
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 17:05
  • 1
    ...with that last VP being: V is, PP (P more-than NP (N [that] some-sorta-subclause (NP which VP (is necessary)))).
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 17:08
  • 4
    @msh210: that's great... I'd suggest adding what you have to the question, to round it out a little.
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 17:33
  • 1
    @Dancrumb, but I don't know how to write it correctly (i.e. as a tree). And, anyway, that's an answer, not part of the question. Perhaps you mean I should add it as an answer? But it's just a guess, so I don't want to.
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 19:02

4 Answers 4


I don't expect this is a final answer, but it may propel some of the grammarians/linguists here to fix it. Just learning what I could from the internet, I attempted to emulate the trees I found, abusing the labels & other conventions, I'm sure. But I think the essence of the question is illustrated: where does that pesky "is" come from? My instinct is that it is deep in the grammar, as my totally non-conventional diagram suggests.

Amateur attempt at diagramming a complex sentence.


About the clause question, they are both Subordinate Comparative Clauses. You know it because it is introduced by the nexus "more ... than or more than".

EDIT: The Clause is the smallest unit that has a "complete sense" (it carries a complete and logic meaning).

The simple clause (usually, they are not mandatory but this can change according to how a certain language works and is structured) consists of a subject and a predicate (i.e. verb):

Dogs bark. (caries is the Direct Object here)

Then you have the "complex" clauses (not sure how they are called in English), which have a Main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

Dogs that are being bothered bark.

The bold part is the subordinate, it extends the meaning of the main clause, in this case it's not mandatory, the main clause (Dogs bark) can stay by itself, but in other cases subordinates are mandatory (the asterisk indicates something wrong):

The new rules force us to arrive here on time.
*The new rules force.

It may be imperfect but more or less this is a general explanation about clauses.

  • Hm, thanks, but until I've got the sentence diagrammed, talking about what type of clause the clauses are doesn't really help me, as I don't even know what the clauses are.
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 21:41
  • I see, well, that can't be explained this fast, you'd need to consult some material about it... I'll make a fast edit in my answer.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 23:06
  • No, no. I mean, thanks, but you misread me. I didn't say "I don't even know what clauses are". I said "I don't even know what the clauses are": meaning, I don't know what the clauses in 1 and 2 are: meaning, I still don't have 1 and 2 diagrammed.
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 2:37
  • Ah ok, sorry, I misunderstood!
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 10:01

I haven't really used this form before, but I think possibly:

(Sentence: He does more than necessary)

(NP/N: He) (VP: does more than necessary)

(V: does)(AdvP: more than necessary)

(Adv: more)(Prep: than)(Adj: necessary)


(Sentence: He does more than is necessary)

(NP/N: He) (VP: does more than is necessary)

(V: does)(AdvP: more than is necessary)

(Adv: more)(Prep: than)(V: is)(Adj: necessary)

Hope this helps.

  • Note, some of my abbreviations might not be standard.
    – Karl
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 5:56
  • Also, there is some heavy ellipsis in play here. I suggest that the fullest form would be: he does more than it is necessary for him to do - as a possible point of interest.
    – Karl
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 5:59
  • 2
    I don't think "more than [is] necessary" is an AdvP at all: I think it is an NP functioning as the object. Consider the cleft sentences "What [*How] he did was more than necessary". It may be that the NP has a zero head, and the surface form is all in its Mod place.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 11:21
  • Hmmm. Possibly. In that case, 'more' and the ensuing phrase would be a pronoun, huh?
    – Karl
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 12:32
  • 1
    @msh: It's certainly not a canonical adjective, but it's a phrase, so would not be expected to meet all the tests for a lexical class. I think it's syntactically interchangeable with "enough", except that it doesn't occur pre-NP. Is "enough" an adjective?
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 12:16

In the first sentence, 'he does more than necessary', it can be interpreted as he does more work than necessary work(Imply the word 'work'). So in this case it need not contain a subordinate clause. So the total sentence is the principal clause.

But the 2nd sentence can be interpreted as 'he does more work than what is necessary.' In this case, "what is necessary" is the Noun subordinate clause being governed by the preposition 'than'. Here also the word 'work' is implied as well 'what'. Here 'He does more work than' is the principal clause.

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