I would like to know if the following sentence is correct:

  1. They actually had more soldiers than was shown on TV.

Here I use "was" because I think the full sentence should be "They actually had more soldiers than (it) was shown on TV (that they had).

I know it might not be a sentence that a native speaker would say, but I would like to know if it's grammatically correct with this interpretation.

Looking forward to your answers.

  • 2
    Hello, Chien. I'm sorry I haven't been able to find anything to back up my opinion (or even any examples), but 'They actually had more soldiers than was shown on TV' sounds as acceptable to me (and for the reason you give, a deletion leading to notional agreement) as 'They actually had more soldiers than were shown on TV'. And it would be more accurate, if data in some format rather than actual footage of certain soldiers, was 'shown'. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 14:48
  • Here I think that even if there's footage of soldiers, choosing "was" can still be justified, as it actually refers to the fact that "it's shown that there were some soldiers." Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 0:35
  • Certainly 'They had more soldiers than was stated on TV' is non-replaceable. // Isn't 'footage of soldiers' one of those whimsical collective nouns :) ? Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 7:46

1 Answer 1


The sentence:

  • They actually had more soldiers than was shown on TV.

is correct. The singular "was" is used because reference is being made to the fact that they had more soldiers, or to their having more soldiers, which are singular subjects. The plural "were" is also possible as stated by Edwin Ashworth in his comment, the only slight difference being, in my opinion, that "were" seems to emphasize the individuality of the soldiers, while "was" points to the group as a whole.

Your question, however, revolves around the use of a verb after "than", without a pronoun. Actually, it would be incorrect to use a pronoun. Something similar occurs with "as":

  • They actually had a lot of soldiers, as (was) shown on TV. (With "as" the verb "was" will tend to be omitted at all times.)

On this page you will find both "than" and "as" used as if they were pronouns (I think they are, as I once claimed in another thread that aroused some controversy), without another pronoun after them:

As and than can introduce clauses in which there is no subject or object pronoun. In this case, they act like relative pronouns.

The meeting was as successful as had been expected. (NOT The meeting was as successful as it had been expected.)

You worry more than is good for you. (NOT You worry more than it is good for you.)

  • Thank you for answering. I would like to say, if used to refer to the fact that something happened, the part after "than" does not describe the "subject" or "object" in the first sentence. However, as you and Edwin Ashworth both have agreed, certain verbs can be (and sometimes only be) used to describe the subjects or objects in the first sentence. For example: 1. Do not buy more apples than are needed. (The apples are needed. Using "is needed" would mean that the fact that we should buy a certain number of apples is needed, but it is not clear and way too clumsy. ) Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 0:44
  • Other examples: 1. We built more houses than were demolished. (You built more houses than those that were demolished) 2. We saved more people than were seen on TV. (was seen is also justified if you refer to the fact that some people were saved. "were" would mean that some people are shown on TV, but we do not know if they were involved in the same event.) 3. I made more cakes than were eaten. (You baked more cakes than those that were eaten) Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 1:01
  • Reason for downvoting? At least I provided some information and examples to support my reply...
    – Gustavson
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 13:21
  • Sorry for accidentally downvoting your answer. I must have done without knowing that I was doing it. Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 14:47
  • 1
    I've chosen your answer as the one that I accept. Thank you very much for answering and I am looking forward to your answers the next time I post a thread! Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 14:49

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