A sentence from this site reads ungrammatical.

On the sweet side, don’t pass up the walnut coffee cake, which is served warm, the better to soak up the bourbon-caramel glaze.

Is the better a noun phrase in this sentence? Why is it not better to soak up the bourbon-caramel glaze as an adverbial? Is the sentence grammatical? What grammar function does the phrase the better to soak up the bourbon-caramel glaze serve? Is it a modifier to the main clause?


2 Answers 2


It's the same use as in Little Red Riding Hood, when the wolf says, "The better to eat you with." I'm not entirely certain about the grammar, but I think that the 'the' is being used as an adverb to emphasize 'better'. From Merriam-Webster:

the, adverb

1 : than before : than otherwise —used before a comparative, e.g. none the wiser for attending

2a : to what extent, e.g. the sooner the better

b : to that extent, e.g. the sooner the better

3 : beyond all others, e.g. likes this the best

I think that the use in the article is that of the first definition.


The phrase "the better" modifies the state of being warm. It is a comparison of utility of two opposites, warmth contrasted against coolness, by linking the state with more or less efficiency of soaking up the glaze.

...which is served warm [as opposed to cool], the better [of the two temperatures] to soak up...

See this definition as "more suitable to".

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