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"No _____er" or "No more _______" or both?

I've come across this construction "He is no more (adjective) than I am" more than once, and there are at least two forums on the Internet where the subject is discussed. Several explanations have been offered but there seems to be no consensus. Some say they mean the same while others find a semantic difference.

My question is: are they both grammatically correct? Do they mean exactly the same? Likewise, would it be grammatical to say "It's no more cold in Greenland than in Alaska", or "She is no more pretty than you are."

EDIT - From the comments and one answer I've got so far, I feel compelled to explain: I'm perfecly aware of how we form the comparative and superlative degrees of adjectives. What I'm asking here is whether some colloquialisms are acceptable, such as "A more silly comment I cannot imagine" to emphasize the idea attached to the positive degree, or "a more healthy-looking baby", or if there is any subtlety in "he is no more young than I am" as compared to "no younger".

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    Younger is the more common comparative form of young. books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Apr 16 '17 at 12:57
  • And young takes -er, -est for comparative and superlative, but not more. In the construction you cite, the correct choice is He is no younger than I am. – John Lawler Apr 16 '17 at 13:26
  • @JohnLawler (And young -takes -er, -est) I know it does. But there have been a few instances when "no more young" has been. Those who use it say there is a semantic difference between the two constructions. That's why I've posted the question. – Centaurus Apr 16 '17 at 13:31
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    @Centaurus Sorry, I never look at the signatures or I wouldn't've bothered. But ... "instances"? Written or spoken? I would understand written, because that's a typical editing mistake -- substitute one word for another but not notice that it doesn't fit the old construction it's embedded in. Spoken no more young than I am would sound like a language learner to me; I can't figure out any way it could be intoned reasonably. – John Lawler Apr 16 '17 at 13:35
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    @Centaurus I could see an argument that it's more akin to the noun use: he's no more a youth than I am. – tchrist Apr 23 '17 at 0:17
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In English, the idiom is: [subject] is no more [noun or adjective] than I am is very common. Please check out my examples:

He's no more a thief than I am.

He's no more rich than I am.

He's no more young than I am.

Those sentences above are idiomatically sound.

This idiom should not be confused with:

He's no richer than I am. He's no younger than I am.

In the first group: no more + adjective is not a comparative adjective. It is just a regular adjective. He is rich. He is not rich. He is no more rich than I am rich.

Please: "He's no more young than I am" implies we are both old. Just as: "He's no more rich that I am" implies we are both somewhat impecunious.

No more here means: His condition or state is not rich just as mine is not. Not at all rich. I'll leave poking at the grammar here to others. Frankly, I can't be bothered. :)

  • You understood my question. +1 – Centaurus Apr 16 '17 at 14:03
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    @Centaurus Here's a tidbit I found, similar, using an adjective: "My position is curious: I am not a Catholic: I am simply a violent Papist. No one could be more 'Black' than I am. I have given up bowing to the Kind. I need say no more. [...] Oscar Wilde, Letter to a Friend on April 28, 1900 Bibliography of Oscar Wilde Stuart Mason – Lambie Apr 16 '17 at 14:33
  • "the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow" (Orwell). I like the "no more young than I am" and it sounds idiomatic to me; but it would seem that the justification is showing that the switch from "I am richer/younger" (vs. the cow/elephant looked dangerous) is okay--maybe a pied piper issue. The "no more a thief" format is readily found. – Xanne Apr 16 '17 at 19:59
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    It can be any adjective or noun. To be no more [adjective or noun] than [somebody]. No more dangerous than a cow is a comparative: dangerous, more dangerous, the most dangerous. He is no more than a thief means the opposite of: He is no more than a thief than his brother. – Lambie Apr 16 '17 at 21:38
  • Correction: no more a thief than his brother. – Lambie Apr 17 '17 at 11:42
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I am in complete agreement with @Lambie's answer. I thought this might be of interest:

Horn, Laurence R. and Wansing, Heinrich, "Negation", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/negation/.

1.7 Privation, affixal negation, and the markedness asymmetry For Aristotle, privation is an instance of opposition defined in terms of the absence or presence of a default property for a given subject: We say that that which is capable of some particular faculty or possession has suffered privation [sterêsis] when the faculty or possession in question is in no way present in that in which, and at the time in which, it should be naturally present. We do not call that toothless which has not teeth, or that blind which has not sight, but rather that which has not teeth or sight at the time when by nature it should. (Categories 12a28–33)

A newborn kitten, while lacking sight, is thus no more “blind” than is a chair, nor is a baby “toothless”.

From a message board http://forum.worldreference.com, on these sentences:

1 He is no younger than I am. (No one knows whether they are young or old.) 2 He is no more young than I am. (Both are old.)

2 is meta-linguistic: it's disputing the word 'young'. Young? Him? He's no more 'young' than I am! It can be used with noun phrases too: What, Jim an expert on chemistry? He's no more an expert than I am!

(Posted by entangledbank Senior Member, London, English - South-East England)

There are a number of examples of "no more rich than I am" in casual Internet use and a couple of instances of "no more rich than" in academic papers.

"No more young than" is less frequent and has the problem that "young" can refer to the offspring--no more kittens than last year.

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By asking such a deep question you have unknowingly stirred up a grammatical hornets' nest! You can write "no more young" if you want to - the thing is that if you are expressing yourself creatively, especially in fiction, perfect grammatical correctness is not mandatory.

Unfortunately this seems mainly a grammar and usage forum; and phrases like 'no more young', 'no more rich' and 'no more cold' are grammatically unwelcome if not outright incorrect. No younger, no richer and no colder sound so much better!

But I understand what you are getting at, and you are right: "no more young" is quite different from 'no younger', and it can be appropriate in certain contexts, as in "Don't tell me she is young -- you are 62 and she is 60 -- young indeed! she is no more young than you are..."

By the by, if you go the 'less route' rather than the 'more route', wouldn't you have no choice but to say 'no less + adjective', as in "YOU SAY I AM TOO YOUNG FOR THE JOB? THEN YOU CAN FORGET JACK AS WELL: HE IS NO LESS YOUNG THAN I AM!" -- "It is no LESS COLD in Alaska than in Greenland" -- maybe you could have the cake and eat it too!

  • Student, my question is about the semantic difference between "he is no younger than I am" and "he's no more young than I am". Some people say the latter means both persons are old whereas the former does not. – Centaurus Apr 19 '17 at 13:08
  • You are right and I agree -- please read my updated answer! – English Student Apr 19 '17 at 13:13
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    You deserve our appreciation for a deceptively deep and subtle question. Now that I look at your statistics, I see (that) you are a senior guru at English Stack Exhange .Com -- 19 gold medals amd nearly 200 bronze -- though you may possibly be NO MORE YOUNG THAN I AM! – English Student Apr 19 '17 at 13:34
  • Very good example. +1 – Centaurus Apr 19 '17 at 14:44
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    @Lambie - There are nicer ways of saying this. FYI, I have flagged your comment. – aparente001 May 6 '18 at 19:58
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"He is no more young than I am" is not grammatical and it should be "He is no younger than I am".

To form the comparative, we use the -er suffix with adjectives of one syllable:

It’s colder today than yesterday.

It was a longer holiday than the one we had last year.

Sasha is older than Mark.

  • Some one-syllable adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms:

    bad, worse, worst far, farther/further, farthest/furthest

    good, better, best old, older/elder, oldest/eldest

  • Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y change y to i and take the -er and -est endings:

    We were busier last week than this week.

    Are you happier now that you’ve changed your job?

    That was the easiest exam I’ve ever taken.

  • Some other two-syllable adjectives (especially those ending in an unstressed vowel sound) can also take the -er and -est endings:

    I’ve always thought that Donald was cleverer than his brother.

    This new bed is narrower than the old one.

  • We don’t normally use the -er and -est endings with two-syllable adjectives ending in -ful. Instead, we use more and most/least:

    This dictionary is more useful than the one we had before.

    You’ll have to try to be more careful in future.

    The most useful tool in the kitchen is a good sharp knife.

  • Adjectives of three or more syllables form the comparative with more/less and the superlative with most/least:

    The second lecture was more interesting than the first.

    That way of calculating the figures seems less complicated to me.

    London is the most popular tourist destination in England.

    If you are going as a group, the least expensive option is to rent an apartment or villa.

(From Cambridge Dictionary)

  • Mahmud, I'm sorry, but this is not what I'm asking, or it would be a question for ELL. – Centaurus Apr 16 '17 at 13:49
  • The phrase no more has several syntactic functions and meaning differences. See the definitions given in the M-W merriam-webster.com/dictionary/no%20more – mahmud koya Apr 16 '17 at 13:57

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