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  1. Defendants fifteen and younger are particularly impaired, and waive their rights much more frequently than do adults.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/01/02/no-remorse

The un-omitted version would be:-

  1. Defendants........., waive their rights much more frequently than adults waive their rights.

Would the following ellipsed sentences be incorrect?

  1. Defendants fifteen and younger are particularly impaired, and waive their rights much more frequently than adults do.

  2. Kids like candy, and so do adults

The aforementioned sentence seems correct. Does the logic/rule that makes this sentence "seem" correct to me apply to the previous sentence?

I don't think that it has anything to do with not terminating a sentence with the "ellipsed verb" --do/does/did, for the following sentences terminate with "ellipsed verb" and "seem" correct.

  1. Few kids live where he does.

  2. It is incorrect to assume that I dislike something just because my parents do.

  3. It's beneficial to learn grammar, and many do so.

4
  • This question about "as" is relevant, as is this on "do" with inversion and the questions linked from them. Although there seem to be some cases when inversion is optional and others when it's mandatory or prohibited, so maybe not all the subtleties are there.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 26 at 13:01
  • 1
    Both "than do adults" and "than adults do" are correct. I think the latter is more common in American English. The first version sounds more "formal".
    – Barmar
    Feb 26 at 21:51
  • In the first example, most people in the UK would also choose 'than adults do', especially in conversation: 'than do adults' sounds starchy. Feb 26 at 23:27
  • Perhaps looking up usage for: neither, nor and so + do woukl help up. It is not the same as the inversion thing.
    – Lambie
    Feb 27 at 15:37

1 Answer 1

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This is a special kind of inversion found in comparative clauses; it can be obligatory, optional, or forbidden, depending on the content of the clause. In your specific case, both "than do adults" and "than adults do" would be acceptable, though the former sounds a bit better to me.

Huddleston & Pullum (2002) have a good explanation of this phenomenon, and I don't think I can explain it better than they do. Here's a direct quote from p. 1107, slightly reformatted:

While a particular kind of structural reduction is the chief syntactic factor distinguishing comparative clauses from other clauses, there is also a difference with respect to the position of the subject, which can occur after the verb under conditions illustrated in:

i. Spain’s financial problems were less acute than were those of Portugal.
ii. ∗ The water seems significantly colder today than was it yesterday.
iii. It is no more expensive than would be the system you are proposing.
iv. ∗ It is no more expensive than would the system you are proposing be.
v. ∗ He works harder than works his father.

The effect of the inversion is almost invariably to place a contrastive subject in end position: in [i], for example, those of Portugal contrasts with Spain’s financial problems. In [ii], then, where the contrast is between the non-subjects today and yesterday the inversion is out of place: we need than it was yesterday. Note, moreover, that in [iii] the subject follows the sequence would be: it cannot invert with would alone, as we see from [iv]. The construction therefore has strong affinities with postposing (cf. Ch. 16, §4) – yet it also resembles subject–auxiliary inversion in that the verb normally has to be an auxiliary: we can have He works harder than his father works but not [v]. The construction therefore has something of the character of a blend between subject postposing and subject–auxiliary inversion, and this mix of properties is found only in comparative clauses.

(As is typical in linguistics literature, "*" is used to mark example sentences that are grammatically incorrect.)

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  • Nice. Small niggle though, namely the fact that after so, as in the OP's (3), the inversion is obligatory. Feb 27 at 14:36

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