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Author Topic: Differentiating the use of “than” and “than that of”  (Read 180 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: March 17, 2017, 10:15:43 PM »

In making comparisons, when should “than that of” be used instead of “than of”?

I was asked this question several days ago by a student-member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum, Forces20. She said she wanted to understand the logic behind the choice between the two comparative forms.

She wrote: “Let’s consider this sentence as an example: ‘As a teacher, his salary is even less than that of a driver.’ Why shouldn’t this sentence be written instead as ‘As a teacher, his salary is even less than a driver’?

“Also this sentence: ‘The new library is undoubtedly well-stocked and functional but no one can say that its atmosphere is like the old one.’ Why should it be revised to this: ‘The new library is undoubtedly well-stocked and functional but no one can say that its atmosphere is like that of the old one’?”



USAGE OF "THAT OF" TO DENOTE ATTRIBUTE


USAGE OF "THAN THAT OF" TO COMPARE ONE ATTRIBUTE TO ANOTHER

I explained to Forces20 that the fundamental difference between the comparatives “than” and “than that of” is in the nature of the elements being compared. We use “than” when we compare two objects or things directly with each other, as in “Your laptop is more powerful than my laptop” or, more succinctly, “Your laptop is more powerful than mine.”

On the other hand, we use “than that of” when we compare not the two objects or things themselves but an attribute, possession, or part of theirs, as in “The processor of your laptop is more powerful than that of mine.” This particular comparative construction is, of course, an elliptical, more succinct version of this sentence: “The processor of your laptop is more powerful than the processor of your laptop.” The pointing pronoun “that” replaces the name of the thing whose attribute, possession, or part is being compared with that of the other, and the pronoun “mine” replaces the name of the other thing involved in the comparison.

If we simply use “than” instead of “than that of” when comparing the attribute, possession, or part of the elements being compared, a semantic problem or ambiguity in meaning might result, as in this sentence: “The processor of your laptop is more powerful than mine.” Here, it’s not clear if the pronoun “mine” refers to the processor of the other person’s laptop or to the laptop itself. The form “than that of” clarifies that ambiguity: “The processor of your laptop is more powerful than that of mine.”

Now, in the examples Forces20 presented, the sentence “As a teacher, his salary is even less than a driver” is grammatically flawed because it is illogically comparing the teacher’s salary to the driver, not to the driver’s salary. The comparative form “less than that of” fixes the problem: “As a teacher, his salary is even less than that of a driver.”

The other sentence she presented, “The new library is undoubtedly well-stocked and functional but no one can say that its atmosphere is like the old one,” has the same problem. It wrongly compares the atmosphere of the new library with the old library itself, when the real comparison should be between their respective atmospheres. The use of the comparative form “like that of” corrects and clarifies that comparison: “The new library is undoubtedly well-stocked and functional but no one can say that its atmosphere is like that of the old one.”

But the form “than that of” may not be necessary in some comparative constructions involving possessives. Take a look at these two examples: “Albert’s grade in science is higher than Bert’s.” Its version that uses “than that of” for the comparison is also correct but less straightforward: “Albert’s grade in science is higher than that of Bert.” On the other hand, this sentence, “Our basketball team’s record is more impressive than our competitor’s,” is more concise and better-sounding than “Our basketball team’s record is more impressive than that of our competitor.” (2010)

This essay, 713th in the series, first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times on October 23, 2010 © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.


« Last Edit: March 18, 2017, 12:25:31 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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