2

The four sentences below are all correct but I don't know when exactly I should put the noun in front of the verb after 'than'?

a.The Internet allows more direct and open communication than does the real world.

b.I have a worse temper than he does.

c.These days Iran is no more inclined to welcome outsiders than is Nigeria or Venezuela.

d.He is more interested in video games than his girl friend is.

  • 2
    In all four sentences, the result is grammatical (and coherent) whether you put the noun (or pronoun) in front o the verb or after. To a native English speaker, there is an evident difference in tone between "I have a worse temper than he does" (which sounds direct and a bit unpolished) and "I have a worse temper than does he" (which sounds a bit literary or self-consciously correct). As far as I know, subtleties of tone are not reducible to a set of rules that language obeys; instead you have to learn them by extended exposure to and practice in the language. – Sven Yargs Jun 12 at 7:25
  • Thank you so much! – Sharon Shen Jun 12 at 8:00
  • B is only possible with marked stress, without which it is likely to be considered ungrammatical, whereas the others are freely possible. The reason is that we use inversion here to shunt new information to the end of the sentence. 'He' is a pronoun and is therefore nearly always previouly mentioned and discourse-old. – Araucaria Jun 12 at 8:30
  • 2
    @SvenYargs - The point is that only a few verbs permit simple subject-verb reversal. "To be" (is/are/was/were et al) is the main one, and "do" permits it (more by convention than by logic) in many contexts. But "action verbs" mostly don't. – Hot Licks Jun 12 at 22:43
  • 1
    @TimFoster How so? Are we supposed to pretend or is now and? – tchrist Jun 13 at 3:38
1

Sven is basically right. The feature is a matter of style rather than grammar. It is associated with comparison of the forms:-

X visits her doctor more often than does Y. X runs as fast as does Y.

The general norm is that noun subjects come before their verbs except in a question (or a second person imperative.

The exception can also occur in some other contexts, usually (possibly always) with intransitive verbs.

Onto the stage to loud applause strode the great conjurer.

What is the point of these deviations from the norm?

First, they occur in contexts where the meaning cannot be doubted. Second they generally involve intransitive verbs. There might be exceptions or at least room for reasonable disagreement about cases like this.

With the uttermost scorn refuted the witness the famous barrister (or vice versa!)

We can probably agree what is being said, but not without some head-scratching, even if momentary. Only fully inflected languages can get away with this.

The point of the device is emphasis. In any sentence, the strongest positions are (often/usually) the beginning and the end; in addition, taking a word away from its expected position draws attention to it, provided it is grammatically possible.

In your examples we have comparison between two things. What could be a stronger reason for putting the two nouns at opposite ends of the sentence?

a.The Internet allows more direct and open communication than does the real world. b.I have a worse temper than he does. c.These days Iran is no more inclined to welcome outsiders than is Nigeria or Venezuela. d.He is more interested in video games than his girl friend is.

In a and b the word ‘does’ is dead: it is a pointer to the verb. (Incidentally, since the main verb is only ‘have’ I think it would be better to repeat ‘has’, enhancing the balance.). In b, it does not make much difference which way round you put subject and verb. You could write “...than does he”, but nothing is gained.

b2. The King was more likely to have people put to death than was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The comparison is fuller and more substantial. So the reversal has clear point.

c. places the object of comparison at opposite ends of the sentence, so making it a ‘physical’ contrast and so more striking.

d. You could do the reversal, but there is no particular point.

Deviation from norms is a recognised stylistic device. The point is emphasis by using the unexpected. Those you are asking about have become more-or-less standard.

Compare these with great literature.

  1. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day.
    [Macbeth on learning of Lady Macbeth’s death]

There is huge weight on the adverbs by putting them at opposite ends of the clause, from the repetitions and from the syncopation of the iambic rhythm, slowing it down and making the line limp along at a “petty pace”. And “petty pace” ‘creeps in’ late ( after the verb “creeps” of which it is subject.) and the more noticeable for that. Of course, Shakespeare did not think it out like that. It just felt and sounded right. That is what literary genius is like.

  • Thank you very much. Sentences like ‘I scored three goals in yesterday’s game, as did Amy.’ and ‘Tom is smart, as is Abby.’ Is it necessary to have the comma or not? Why? – Sharon Shen Jun 13 at 1:52
  • @SharonShen I suspect it is something like this.I could have said “Abby and I scored three goals in the game. The truth conditions are exactly the same. But putting it as your version makes Abby’s achievement a sort of afterthought. They are in any case 2 clauses. So a comma shows us that there is more to come. It also shows that when we come to ‘as’, it will not be something like “as you know perfectly well” or “as team captain”. That’s the best O can do. – Tuffy Jun 13 at 8:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.