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I am designing a poster for a sale where the second item is 50% off. As is standard for such sales, the second item's price must be the same as or less than the price of the first item.

My boss wants this conveyed as "second item is of equal or lesser value to the first item", but this seems incorrect to me. Specifically, the "to" sounds like it should be "as" or "than".

To me, "of equal or lesser value" is like saying "of the same or smaller value", and saying "of the same or smaller value to the first item" does not make any sense to me. The sentence is comparing item to item, not value to item or value to value. Consider:

  • "of equal or lesser value to the first item"
  • "of darker color to the first item"
  • "of longer length to the first item"
  • "of similar structure to the first item"

None of these make sense to me.

Having said that, I went on Google to check my sanity, and as the search results indicate, using "to" is much more common than "as" or "than"!

What am I missing?

Thank you in advance!

  • Equal to; lesser than; greater than. – Michael Harvey Jul 3 '18 at 20:15
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    Free item must be of equal or lesser value. – Jim Jul 3 '18 at 20:48
  • With commas your boss's could work: of equal, or lesser, value to – Unrelated Jul 3 '18 at 21:03
  • Although this is not relevant to the core of the question, it should be noted that value is a potentially misleading word in this context. The discounts of this kind are based on the previously announced prices of the goods, not their values. – jsw29 Jul 5 '18 at 18:06
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To

7. Used to introduce the second element in a comparison.

In the sentence

'Second item is of equal or less value to the first item.'

'To' is comparing the second item's value to the first item and saying that its value is equal to the first item or lesse than the first item.

Notice how I replaced lesser with less? Here's why,

'Lesser' is used as an adjective to mean:

1. not so great or important as the other or the rest.
2. Lower in rank or quality

Whereas, 'Less' is used to mean:

a smaller amount of; not as much.

Because we are talking about value and prices and whatnot, the latter is more appropriate.

In other words 'The second item is of equal value to first item or is of less value than the first item.'

Also, as a general rule: Small is used to talk about size and Less is used to talk about amount. There are exceptions of course

You could also say:

The second item's value is equal to or less than the first item's


WHY YOU CAN'T USE 'AS'


The reason why using 'as' is wrong is because it is used when you are making a comparison of equality or similarity. SOURCE from another question. And than is used for making unequal comparisons. Because in your sentence you say 'equal or less' you make the value of the second item unequal and consequently cannot use 'as'.
If you did not include 'less' you could say,

'The second item is of equal value as the first (item)'
but as you wish to say that the value will be the same or less than that of the first item you make it unequal, right? Which is why you have to use 'than'

'The second item is of equal or less value than the first'


Now whether you want to use 'than' or 'to' is completely up to you, I hope this clears it all up.

  • Appreciate the reply. For some reason I can't get over the feeling that "second item is of equal value to the first item" is still incorrect. In my mind, "second item is [of some similar or different trait] AS the first item" seems correct, whether that trait be value, color, or most anything else, at least in a general sense. Using "to" in this context seems off, because it's the items that are being compared (by trait), not the trait of one item directly equated to the other item itself. – zims Jul 3 '18 at 21:03
  • Read it again, I've added more info on why this is incorrect. – user298391 Jul 3 '18 at 21:40
  • That helps, but why is "of less value to" just as acceptable as "of less value than"? The latter sits well with me, because it's an unequal comparison as you said. But the former is like saying "of darker color to", which still feels very awkward. I can see how "second item is of less or equal value to the first item" makes sense, but how does "second item is of equal or less value to the first item" still hold up? – zims Jul 3 '18 at 21:57
  • As to why they're both just as acceptable, I have no idea, in some sentences you can use either 'to' or 'than' like in your example. And for some other sentences you can only use one, like 'He is taller than me' you can't say 'He is taller to me' to make a comparison, that would be ungrammatical. – user298391 Jul 3 '18 at 22:23
  • You can also throw in 'compared' to make it sound less awkward, 'second item is of equal or less value (compared) to the first item.' – user298391 Jul 3 '18 at 22:26
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I may be missing something. I've seen a lot of ad copy, but I've never seen any that ends with "to the first item," whether it's grammatical or not.

You haven't provided a full sentence, but all of the ads I've seen use phrasing similar to:

Buy one and get a second of equal or lesser value at 50% off.

This is perfectly understandable, and how I would expect such a sales description to read.

My recommendation would be to use this construction and bypass your issue altogether.


Alternatively, if your boss is telling you to write it a certain way, then your questioning of word choice may be a moot point.

Finally, even if to is not quite appropriate (and I'm not sure if that's true), if your search results show it to be the most commonly used expression—then use it.

Everything being equal, ad copy is more about audience receptivity than it is about completely correct grammar. If it sounds better to people (even if "they're wrong"), it will sell more.

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