10

I am Japanese and a teacher of English. Now I am at a loss at a topic on "Comparison."

This sentence should be considered grammatically OK:

Oversleeping is no more healthy than overeating.

Whereas this sentence seems to be deemed wrong (including by AI-based grammar checkers):

This camera is no more big than my hands.

However, it does not make sense to me as these sentences should be identical in terms of their syntax and grammar.

Are both sentences correct?

  • 2
    Both sentences in the question are fine as written. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Nov 10 at 3:28
  • 11
    @JasonBassfordSupportsMonica False. You are no more big than a grasshopper leaps. – tchrist Nov 10 at 3:30
  • 4
    So, "no more big than" is okay as well? How come "more big" is allowed here then.... Usually it is 100% wrong to use that form instead of bigger. >< – Kyozy Nov 10 at 3:31
  • 14
    @Kyozy No, more big is always wrong, just like more good and more bad. – tchrist Nov 10 at 3:33
  • 14
    You can use more big when you are comparing the qualities of a single item rather than two items. For example: The car's more big than good. Or He's more lazy than stupid. You can't say *The car's bigger than good or *He's lazier than stupid. See here: books.google.de/… – Shoe Nov 10 at 7:24
20

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik have the following in their A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (pp. 462-463):

Most adjectives that are inflected for their comparison can also take the periphrastic forms with more and most. With more, they seem to do so more easily when they are predicative and are followed by a than-clause:

  • John is more mad than Bob is.
  • It would be difficult to find a man more brave than he is.
  • He is more wealthy than I thought.

Periphrastic forms are, however, uncommon with a number of monosyllabic adjectives (including those listed in 7.75 as forming their comparison irregularly [good, bad, far]):

bad, big, black, clean, fair [colour], far, fast, good, great, hard, high, low, old, quick, small, thick, thin, tight, wide, young

They add the following note:

There seem to be fewer restrictions on using the periphrastic forms with adjectives in the comparative construction formed with the correlative the...the:

  • The more old/older we are, the more wise/wiser we become.

BUT NOT: *a more old man

Good and bad, however, require nonperiphrastic forms (better, worse) even here.

The example you give fits the context in which fewer restrictions seem to apply to the use of the periphrastic form only partially. Big is used predicatively and followed by than, though not by a than-clause. Perhaps the addition of are could make it more acceptable:

  • This camera is no more big than my hands are.
  • Oh, thank you so much for your answer! That was pretty understandable explanation to me! – Kyozy Nov 10 at 12:27
  • 1
    There are plenty of idiomatic constructions with more big, but they depend on context, as in a dialog: “Were their players more talented?” “No, just more big.” (said in a tone of disgust). – Global Charm Nov 10 at 13:46
  • Quirk et al don't address the 'no more Adj[absolute-form]' string; even the negator may skew preferred choice (padding often affords more licence). And of course there are strings (with absolute-class adjectives or nouns) not possible without 'no': "He is no more dead than I am." "He is no more mad than Bob is" has a different meaning from "He is no madder than Bob is." – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 at 14:57
14

Instead of using more to form comparatives, notice what happens when you use inflection for the comparative degree:

  1. Oversleeping is no healthier than overeating.
  2. The camera is no bigger than my hands.

More big is always wrong to form the comparative degree, which is always bigger .

More healthy could also be healthier but it does not necessarily need to be.

  • 10
    "More big" isn't technically wrong, it's just not idiomatic. – Hot Licks Nov 10 at 3:30
  • 11
    @HotLicks Sure it is, but if you disagree, please post a more good answer; it can hardly be more bad. – tchrist Nov 10 at 3:32
  • 4
    I was taught more big is grammatically wrong. "big, bigger, biggest", not "big, more big, most big"... ... – Jalene Nov 10 at 4:50
  • 4
    So then how come we always say "You couldn't be more wrong" and never "You couldn't be wronger"? – Robusto Nov 10 at 4:57
  • 12
    "There are more big apples on this tree" and "There are bigger apples on this tree" are both idiomatic English, but they mean different things. – alephzero Nov 10 at 11:20
1

I think the construction "X is no more A than Y" normally functions idiomatically to express "X is not A." You are saying some predicate does not apply in this case, just as it doesn't apply in this other case. The tacit part of the expression is "...Y is A." See below:

  • "Oversleeping is no more healthy than overeating (is healthy)."

  • "This camera is no more big than my hands (are big)."

It's not that the camera sentence is ungrammatical; it's just that it looks like it doesn't say what it intends to, which is that the camera is about hand-sized.

Here's a case where "no more big" would go through:

Child1: I'm big!
Parent: You're not big.
Child2: I'm big!
Parent: You're no more big than Child1.

  • Welcome to English.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. – V2Blast Nov 11 at 5:28
0

Oversleeping is no more healthy than overeating.

.

This camera is no more big than my hands.

In native English, these two sentences are incredibly uncomfortable, in a word they are wrong.

(The fact that they may or may not be grammatically correct is a naive path of enquiry. This sentence not not the other not not sentence is 'grammatically correct', and that fact is of no value.)

The remarkably obvious, common way to state the first type of thought is:

Oversleeping is just as bad as overeating.

"... is just as bad as ..." is a very common formulation in English rhetorical exchanges, and, in this setting (which is an exact example of it), anything else sounds weird.

For the second one,

This camera is no bigger than my hands.

Ditto on that formulation. The incorrect sentence is so close to a common phrase, yes so incorrect, that it sounds very incorrect. Indeed, it's a perfect example of "humorous foreign English" where one fluffs a common phrase.

Further, note that a similar-sounding common formulation in a certain type of argument is ".. no worse than .." where you are "throwing back in the other person's face" some relevant negative point.

You tell me "You shouldn't smoke so muchy, smoking is bad"; my response "It's no worse than alcohol!" (In the example, the first party drinks a lot.)

The first given incorrect sentence is particularly bad because it sounds like one is trying to use that formulation, but has everfthing messed up on a couple of levels. To wit, it sounds like the speaker has confused a use case of the "just as bad as" formulation with a use case of the "well that's no worse than" formulation. (And, additionally, messed-up the words anyway.)

  • This answer looks more of opinion than informed English. Even equating something unusual to be wrong is not proper use of linguistics. And this site is about English linguistics, not English opinion. You may want to edit your answer to provide references and published examples/definitions. – Pablo Straub Nov 13 at 11:54
  • Ola @PabloStraub , this is an unusual site. Most of the questions, say 80%, are essentially asking: "in Native natural English, what is _ _ _". Just as the OED is a book of opinion, as explained in the famous intro to the first edition ("we believe the most common spelling in the wild of XYZ is such and such") The whole site is just opinion, and can only be. Often, folks try to reach for "proof" by using Google Books as a corpus - but that's just written. Many, many questions, such as this one, are about figures of speech, and their correct or (such as here) incorrect usage. – Fattie Nov 13 at 12:46
  • I observe you're trying to go through the site and on every answer add a comment that the answer is opinion :) That is a big task :) – Fattie Nov 13 at 12:46
  • I suggest too @PabloStraub that this site famously has some remarkably "off on a tangent" QA. Simply looking at the question here, which should be closed anyway, the overwhelming thing to point out is that it is a mangled common idiom. That's the elephant in the room. Everything else is a sideshow. – Fattie Nov 13 at 12:54
  • And finally! You mention "this site is about English linguistics", apparently it is not. Help center -> "Questions on the following topics are welcomed here: Word choice and usage .." (I believe there's actually another site for linguistics?) Also, as far as I understand it, academically "linguistics" usually means looking in to form, meaning, usage (ie, my answer here), not really "grammar 'rules'" as such. These are all weighty issues. In general a blanket "sources.." doesn't really work here, I fear. (Unless it's just a school "grammar question", which shouldn't be on the site anyways.) – Fattie Nov 13 at 13:00
0

John is more mad than Bob is. It would be difficult to find a man more brave than he is.

Why do we have the sentence terminating with an is? As I learned in school, we would put the is before the noun, or omit it completely

John is more mad than is Bob. or John is more mad than Bob.

It would be difficult to find a man more brave than he.

  • Hi @Leslie. Welcome to English Language & Usage. A text like yours is better to appear in a comment than in an answer. The expectation for answers are well-researched, informative texts that directly address the question asked. – Pablo Straub Nov 13 at 11:57

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