I'm trying to settle a debate with my girlfriend. She says "how quicker" is incorrect and you should always use "how much quicker".

Which of these is [more?] correct?

See how quicker the cars flow into the city than out of the city.


See how much quicker the cars flow into the city than out of the city.

I can't find a definitive source. But Googling indicates the former is less common (5,300 results) than the latter (320,000 results). But most of the hits for "how quicker" are in Google Books, especially texts from the early 20th century.

Could this just be an archaism? Has the grammar changed? I'm assuming those old books were lectored.

  • 1
    In idiomatic English we would say "how much quicker [something something something]" rather than "how quicker [something something something]" in the pattern that you have in mind. So your girlfriend wins this round. – Sven Yargs Apr 16 '15 at 22:24
  • @SvenYargs Except that in the best schools of English they say See how more quickly (much more quickly) the cars flow... – WS2 Apr 17 '15 at 0:00
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    How sharper than a serpent's tooth... ---W. Shakespeare – GEdgar Apr 17 '15 at 1:37
  • A closely related question is As quick as we can?. – tchrist Apr 17 '15 at 2:17
  • @GEdgar - The full quote with the adjectival phrase in italics: "That she may feel how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child." Sharper does not of itself qualify the adverb how, but rather the entire phrase functioning as an adjective. It should also be noted that Shakespeare frequently distorted sentence structure to maintain iambic pentameter. – Peter Wone Jun 16 '16 at 7:07

The correct sentence is definitely:

  • "See how much quicker the cars flow into the city..."

Unfortunately the presence of a structure on teh intarweb doesn't mean it is correct, and in this case most of the hits for "how quicker" are for constructs like "See how quicker response can help you...", which is an entirely different construct.

  • As otherwhere observed: “Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits / To laughter and contempt, that she may feel— / That she may feel / How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child.—Away, away!” spoken by the eponymous protagonist of King Lear in Act 1 Scene 4 as written by somebody whose name I forget. :) – tchrist Apr 17 '15 at 2:16
  • Don't use Shakespeare as an example of good grammar. "This was the most unkindest cut of all". – DJClayworth Apr 17 '15 at 3:03

Actually, I'm afraid both of you are wrong. The correct version is "See how much more quickly the cars flow into the city than out of the city."

The base word is "quick" - fast, or speedy. The normal adjectival construction uses "-er", and the normal adverbial construction is "-ly".

So "quicker" is an adjective, and "quickly" is an adverb (and both already exist).

The word being modified is "flow", a verb, so the adverb "quickly" should be used.

However, of the two choices presented, your girlfriend's is closer to correct. In careless speech, the adjective is often used, since the next possible subject is "cars". In this case, "how quicker the cars" is not remotely likely, but "how much quicker the cars" is at least close.

  • Sorry, this answer is wrong. Please see the OED. I can read it faster than you can, but it would do you more good. Note the adverb in the comparative degree. – tchrist Apr 17 '15 at 2:02

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