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Recently I read about a sentence on a test.

"Men suffering anxiety are twice as likely to get cancer."

I wonder if I can also use 'twice more likely' in the sentence. If not, please tell me why 'twice more likely' is grammatically incorrect.

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    "Twice more likely" is apt to be taken to mean "three times as likely". It's not grammar, it's semantics. – Hot Licks Sep 27 '16 at 12:49
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My immediate reaction is that people just don't say "twice more likely." I am not sure if it is ungrammatical (I can't think of any reason why it would be), but it definitely seems wrong to me.

But for some reason, even though "twice" and "two times" are generally interchangeable, "two times more likely" does sound OK to me. In general, I think people use "two times more likely" to mean the same thing as "two times as likely" and "twice as likely," but I believe I've encountered a peeve where people object to this use of "two times more likely" and say that it "logically" should mean "three times as likely" (because one plus two is three).

Here is a Google Ngram chart that shows that the difference between "twice as likely" and "twice more likely" is much greater than the difference between "two times as likely" and "two times more likely" or "three times as likely" and "three times more likely."

image of the ngram chart

You can see that "twice more likely" is at the very bottom. However, if you click through to the Google Books results, you can see there are some examples of "twice more likely" being used in published works (a surprisingly large number from my perspective).

Here are some relevant questions dealing with the distinct, but related question of whether to use "X times more" or "X times as many" in general:

Similar question, but with answers that address some different points:

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"twice more likely" is not commonly used, and is also confusing:

Imagine that 10% of all men get cancer at some point. If anxiety makes it "twice more likely" does that mean an extra 10%, or an extra 20%? "twice more" could mean "multiply it by two, then add that on to the original figure (because it's "more").", making it a total of 30%.

If you say "Twice as likely" it's more clear that that the statistic rises from 10% to 20% for example, because 20% is "twice as much" as 10%.

  • Then I have another question. Does the rule apply to other sentences? When we say "I am twice older than you," does it mean the same as "I am twice older than you." Or like you just say before, "twice older than you " should mean "I am three times as old as you." Thanks in advance. – Gloria Sep 29 '16 at 15:00
  • We don't say "I am twice older than you". We say "I am twice as old as you". – Max Williams Sep 29 '16 at 15:37
  • Thanks for your quick reply. So there's no such sentence pattern as " twice older than" you. I was told that these two mean the same thing in a textbook for high school students in Taiwan. Thanks for your input. I've learned something new. – Gloria Oct 2 '16 at 12:51

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