The original sentence says: "The greater the amount of total suspended solids the higher the turbidity of the water."

I think it feels off because it lacks a verb. Would the following be an acceptable edit, and does there need to be a comma before "then"? "The greater the amount is of total suspended solids then the higher the turbidity is of the water."

I'm struggling because this sounds like two dependent clauses with no independent clause present. I would appreciate any advice or explanation. I have been staring at this sentence too long!

Update: Is an implied verb acceptable in formal writing? Is a comma required? For those who have answered or will answer, thank you!

  • The original sentence is correct. Find the rules here : grammar-quizzes.com/themore.html
    – Eilia
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:16
  • @Eilia: I'm not sure how relevant that link is, because all the examples do have verbs: shook, rose, saw, and looked.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:26
  • @Nicole, You're right, another example : The greater the amount of water the greater the shrinkage and its related higher suction... (www.stastier.co.uk/nhl/topics/mineralogy.htm)
    – Eilia
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:44
  • 2
    possible duplicate of "The more, the merrier!" -- Is this a sentence? If not... what? Where the accepted answer says It's a sentence with an implicit verb. In OP's example, that would be, for example, The greater the amount of total suspended solids is, the higher the turbidity of the water is. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:52
  • @FumbleFingers Yes, but I think this explication needs to be in an answer somewhere, since comments eventually disappear (and not everyone reads all the comments).
    – bib
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


Assuming that there are implicit verbs, it certainly should be acceptable to make them explicit.  I consider the sentence to be equivalent to:

The greater the amount of total suspended solids [is], the higher the turbidity of the water [ is / must be / will be / should be / becomes / ... ].

Even with explicit verbs restored, there is no dependent clause in the sentence.  There are two independent clauses.  The first independent clause represents a condition, the second represents a consequence. 

It is common but not necessary to express the relationship between condition and consequence with a subordinate clause.  Two independent clauses can serve the same purpose, especially when supported by the relationship between the clauses' modalities.

If you do wish to represent the conditional relationship using a dependent clause, I recommend eliminating the inversions and using the word "if" to make the conditional clause subordinate:

If the amount of total suspended solids is greater, the turbidity of the water is higher.

The original sentence contains a number of unusual features.  The clauses are inverted.  The copular verbs are elided.  The coordination is asyndetic.  In spite of all of that, this type of sentence can be found in formal writing.  I would expect a comma to mark the asyndetic coordination, but I otherwise find the original sentence to be unsurprising.

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