For many years I’ve been using constructions of two interrelated clauses where each of the two verbs comes with a comparative adverb or adjective of some sort (so either with more or less, or else with the equivalent ‑er inflection if the adverb/adjective is short enough for that).

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about, with the comparative adverbs from both clauses rendered in bold:

  1. The more you eat, the fatter you get.
  2. The faster you go, the sooner you get there.
  3. The more I spoke, the less interested she became.

In all three of those examples, we have two verbs proportionally linked by each one’s progressive change. I think this is pretty standard English.

However, today I saw a sentence that did not use a comparative adverb in the first clause, only in the second, yet was surely still intended to convey proportional growth between the verbs in its two interrelated halves:

  1. The importance of interfaces increases the bigger your application becomes.

Where’s the comparative adverb/adjective in the first clause in that sentence that’s licensing comparative adjective in the second clause? Is this usage valid and is it common in English?

If so, I’ll like it even more because trying to fit all such sentences into a standard the more X, the more Y pattern can sometimes create weird sentences. For example, this one seems weird to me:

  1. The more scientists work on a solution, the more probably they will find one.
  • 3
    Yes, 'correlative comparative' constructions like these are quite 'legal'. Your fourth example differs from the first three in that it is the 'basic' version, i.e. the one where the subordinate clause occupies the 'default' position at the end of the matrix clause, rather than being fronted. Often they are reversible, but reversal here would give "The bigger your application becomes, the more the importance of interfaces increases", which is not quite an entailment of the fronted version.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 12:21
  • When you say 'legal' do you mean 'grammatical' or 'idiomatic'? Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 14:07
  • Other options include: The importance of interfaces increases as your application grows bigger. Larger applications only increase the importance of a good interface. The more scientists work on a solution, the higher the likelihood of success. In scientific research, funding drives success. There are lots of ways of expressing these relationships -- you're not tied down to the starter pattern. Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 14:34
  • 1
    Neither the fatter nor the less interested is a comparative adverb modifying the verb in your sentences. They’re predicate adjectives of the comparative degree modifying that clause’s subjectnot its verb. I don’t know why you might think such clearly adjectival words as fat or interested could ever be adverbs. Perhaps you might care to edit your post to clarify this.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


The importance of interfaces increases the bigger your application becomes

This puts effect before cause, so harder to interpret on sight-reading. All the other examples you give are "the right way round". In my opinion it's still a bit awkward with the clauses reversed, so some re-working is probably required. Something like:

The bigger the application, the greater the importance of interfaces

Or something even terser.

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