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I would like to know more about this expression: More of a/an something than something.

As far as I know, it's usually used when we refer to things that are preceded by articles such as a and an. For example, we can say "He's more of a singer than a dancer", which means that he's more like a singer than a dancer.

However, I would like to know if we can use it when the words we are describing are preceded by "the", which is also an article.

For example, can we use "The cause of the disaster was more of the operator than the machine itself"?

Any opinions are welcome.

Thanks in advance!

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    The cause of the disaster was due more to the operator than to the machine itself. – Jim Feb 10 at 20:09
  • Thank you for replying. Do you think that the expression is not compatible with words preceded by"the"? – Chien Te Lu Feb 10 at 20:14
  • No, just your choice of subject there doesn’t fit. “We saw more of the ocean than the island” is just fine. – Jim Feb 10 at 20:18
  • How about this one: These countries had been fighting each other for many years by then. The assassination in 1914 was more of the result than the cause. – Chien Te Lu Feb 10 at 20:31
  • The cause is clearly referring to World War 1, but the assassination was not the result of WW1. It doesn’t maintain parallelism. – Jim Feb 10 at 20:41
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When describing something or somebody, only the indefinite article can be used:

  • He is more of a scientist than a physician. (This means that he can be better described as a scientist than as a physician.)

  • The final was more of a battle than a game. (This means that the final could be more accurately described as a battle than as a game.)

The example provided by Jim in a comment does not reflect this structure, since use is being made of the verb pattern "see something of something" (the first "something" is "more", meaning "more things"):

  • We saw more of the ocean than the island.

Similarly, we could have this sentence:

  • We heard more of the story than the real facts.

In both cases above, "more" means "more things" and is not used for description. In conclusion, if you want to describe by comparing using "more of", use "a/n", not "the".

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