Comparative Clause in English Grammar

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In English grammar, a comparative clause is a type of subordinate clause that follows the comparative form of an adjective or adverb and begins with as, than, or like.

As the name indicates, a comparative clause expresses a comparison—for example, "Shyla is smarter than I am.

A comparative clause may contain ellipsis: "Shyla is smarter than I" (formal style) or "Shyla is smarter than me" (informal style).

A construction in which the verb has been omitted by ellipsis is called a comparative phrase.

Martin H. Manser notes that "[m]any familiar idiomatic phrases take the form of comparative clauses linking equivalents of various kinds: as clear as day, as good as gold, as light as a feather" (The Facts on File Guide to Good Writing, 2006).

Examples and Observations

  • Bill Bryson
    Apart from a few perishable dairy products, everything in the fridge was older than I was.
  • Marcel Pagnol
    The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.
  • Theodore Roosevelt
    No other president ever enjoyed the presidency as I did.
  • Charles Dickens
    I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.
  • Jill Lepore
    The United States spends more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined.

The Comparative Clause Structure

  • R. Carter and M. McCarthy
    When comparisons of degree are made between things which are similar or the same, then the comparative clause structure as + adjective/adverb + as phrase or clause is frequently used:
    Is the Sultan of Brunei as rich as the Queen of England?
    They are as keen to join in as we are.
    Property in Guanzhou isn't as expensive as in Hong Kong.
  • Winston Churchill
    A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.
  • Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler
    They don't make 'em like they used to.

Reduced Comparative Clauses

  • Rodney D. Huddleston
    The construction where a comparative clause is reduced to a single element is to be distinguished from that where the complement of than or as is simply an NP: [she is taller than] 6ft. Unlike I/me, 6ft is not [the] subject of a reduced clause: there is here no ellipsis. One special case of this latter construction common in non-standard dialects is that where the NP complement of than/as is a fused relative construction: She is taller than what Max is.