1. I was wondering if "... than would be ..." is Irrealis subjunctive mood?
  2. What is neglected between "than" and "would", given that "than" is conj.?

For example:

Programs are larger, more complex, or have a greater span than would be practical within a single project.

The weather here is warmer than would be expected at that this latitude because of the influence of surface currents.

  • I'm having trouble understand the question here. The two examples are correct in form. Can you please rephrase your question? – Loquacity Jul 3 '11 at 6:48
  • I understand the text and examples, but do not know what to answer. The than would could be replaced by than a single project would make practical --- than that latitude would make you expect – mplungjan Jul 3 '11 at 6:54
  • What is an "irrealis mood"? – kiamlaluno Jul 3 '11 at 9:11
  • @kiamlaluno, Irrealis mood – rintaun Jul 3 '11 at 11:19
  • 1
    ...the site is still at the "commitment" stage, but a proposal for linguistics.se has been around for some time now. I suggest anyone who strongly approves of this type of question should go there and commit, so it can move on to the "beta" phase... area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/6673/linguistics – FumbleFingers Jul 3 '11 at 14:06

As I understand it, "Irrealis mood" is not a mood in and of itself, but rather a set of grammatical moods, which, according to Wikipedia "indicate that a certain situation or action is not known to have happened as the speaker is talking." I believe that your examples above of "than would be" may be examples of the conditional1 mood (one of the irrealis moods), but I admit a lower level of expertise in the subject of moods than I likely should have.

Nothing is being neglected, as these are both grammatical English sentences, but if one were to rewrite these sentences without ellipsis, one might rewrite them as the following:

  1. Programs are larger, more complex, or have a greater span than [it] would be practical [to contain] within a single project.
  2. The weather here is warmer than [the weather] would be expected [to be] at that2 latitude because of the influence of surface currents.

Obviously, as a sentence with much simpler structure (i.e. a shorter subject), the second sentence is easier to rewrite in this manner.

1 My original answer posited subjunctive, but upon further inspection, I believe it to be the conditional mood.
2 Incidentally, I would also change change that to this -- because we are not speaking of there, but rather here. Note: This was written prior to the question being updated.

  • that=this - my thoughts too when commenting. What do you make of my comment by the way? – mplungjan Jul 3 '11 at 8:19
  • @mplungjan: From a semantic viewpoint, it conveys the same information, but I felt as if @Tim wanted something which was deleted, rather than simply rephrasing the second half of each sentence. – rintaun Jul 3 '11 at 12:52
  • @rintaun: Thanks for pointing the that problem. I replaced it with this. – Tim Jul 3 '11 at 13:28
  • I still feel the clause after than are subjunctive, because they state something not real as the clause before than is the reality. AFAIK, the usage would is often used to express subjunctive mood. – Tim Jul 3 '11 at 14:26

I'm not sure if this is exactly an answer. Firstly the various irrealis modes aren't particularly relevant to this site, because most of them don't even exist in English. They're to do with comparative linguistics, and they're primarily of interest to comparative linguistics because collectively, many languages can convey a vast range of nuances relating to ability, preference, permission, obligation, likelihood, etc. In the normal context of parsing English, OP's examples are simply in the conditional mode.

Turning to those examples, I have to say I simply don't understand the first one. In my understanding, a project may comprise multiple programs; I don't see how a program can be more complex than the containing project itself.

The second example is ambiguous. It could be saying the weather is simply warmer because of the surface currents. Or it could be saying it's even warmer than would be expected given the latitude and currents, without specifying a reason.

  • Comments on your comments to the examples: (1) For the first one, on the contrary to a project may comprise multiple programs, a program is about several related projects (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_management). (2) For the second one, I can't see from the last paragraph the differences between the original sentence and your suggested two alternative ways. – Tim Jul 3 '11 at 15:54
  • @Tim: (1) I don't think much of that Wikipedia page - nor do others who have flagged it as poor quality. Apart from anything else, it confuses a management program with the management of programs. It lists a set of "projects" called design, modifications, marketing, and training, so we're not exactly talking about standard nomenclature here. – FumbleFingers Jul 3 '11 at 16:12
  • (2) The sentence can be interpreted either of two ways as I've set out. Do you not see both interpretations? – FumbleFingers Jul 3 '11 at 16:14

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