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Parallelism with Comparative Adjective and Adverb [Part 1 of 5]

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Comparison of Nouns/ Noun Phrases for quantity/amount/percentage [Part A]

A. Comparing number of a noun/compound noun/ noun phrase with itself differentiated by time or location

Notice that the phrase within bracket ( ) after ‘than’ can be omitted by rule of parallelism.

Children's books are in lesser numbers on the first floor than (those [=books that are for children]) on the third floor.

= There are fewer children's books on the first floor than (there are) on the third floor.

= Children's books on the first floor are fewer than (those that are) on the third floor.

= Children's books on the first floor are fewer than (they are) on the third floor.

= Fewer children's books are on the first floor than (there are children’s books)/ (they are)/ (those that are) on the third floor.

Notice that:

1) When ‘than’ is separated from ‘fewer’, complements distinguishing the noun phrases are also separated from the noun head. In this case ‘than’ is followed only by the prepositional complement maintaining parallelism with the prepositional complement before ‘than’ and rest of the main clause can be omitted. It is to be noted that preposition ‘on’ must be repeated.

2) When noun phrases are compared without separating complement from noun head, ‘fewer than’ separate the noun phrases and noun head is repeated after ‘than’. In this case it is ‘those’ which is demonstrative pronoun or ‘they’ which is a pronoun for ‘children’s books’. However because of prepositional phrase, ‘they/those’ can be omitted and yet convey the meaning because preposition after ‘than’ doesn’t allow the meaning to be different.

3) In case of dummy subject ‘there’ used to express existence, ‘than’ cannot be followed by ‘those’ or ‘they’.

4) For comparing number or quantity, ‘less/fewer/more’ can be used in the beginning of sentence before noun as a comparative ‘quantifier determiner’ instead of comparative ‘predicate adjective’. In the sentence ‘.... books are fewer ... than....’, the verb ‘are’ is a linking verb and ‘fewer than’ is a predicate adjective phrase of comparative quantity. However in the sentence ‘Fewer ... are ...than...’, ‘are’ is an existence verb followed by location adverb, and ‘fewer’ is a quantifier determiner where comparison is made with respect to locations preceding and following 'than'.


Female doctors are fewer than ([female doctors] /[the doctors who were female]) earlier/before.

= Female doctors are fewer than there were (doctors who were female) earlier.

Notice that ‘doctors who are female’ is not same as ‘female doctors’ in this case, since comparison is not with female doctors in general but with ‘female doctors among doctors’ because of ‘there’ which refers to certain place in context.


= The number of female doctors is lower than (the number of female doctors who were there) earlier/before.

Notice that it is necessary to add ‘who were there’ after ‘female doctors’, because ‘is’ in the main clause is not a link verb but a ‘existence verb’ which needs ‘there’ for parallelism. Further ‘number’ is singular and hence ‘is’ instead of ‘are’ used and similarly ‘lower’ instead of ‘fewer’ is more appropriate. It is to be also noted that there is no need to repeat ‘the number’ after ‘than’ since main noun phrase ‘female doctors’ also doesn’t require repetition because of self-comparison.It is true when noun phrase is ‘number of X’ both in the main clause and after ‘than’.


= Doctors who are female are fewer than there were female doctors earlier.

Notice that in this case ‘female doctors’ after ‘than’ and ‘there’ is correct because of the noun phrase ‘Doctors who are female’ in the main clause.


= There are fewer female doctors than there were (doctors who were female) earlier.

Notice that though this is grammatically correct sentence, the sentence can also mean that the same doctors who were female earlier are not female now. This is not the case for example with the sentence: There are fewer postgraduate teachers than there were (teachers who were postgraduates) earlier. By omitting the part in the bracket ( ) which is allowed by rule of parallelism, this confusion can be avoided.


= Female doctors [=Doctors who are female] are fewer than ([they were] / [the female doctors who were there]) earlier.

= Female doctors [=Doctors who are female] are fewer than ([those] / [female doctors] who were there) earlier.

= Female doctors [=Doctors who are female] are fewer than ([those] / [doctors] (who were female)) earlier.

Notice the difference in substitution of ‘those’; while it is grammatically permissible to omit ‘who were female’, it is not allowed to omit ‘who were there’ after ‘those’. Thus ‘those’ refers to ‘doctors’ in ‘those earlier’ and it refers to ‘female doctors’ in ‘those who were there’

All of the above sentences can be written as: “Female doctors are fewer than earlier.’. Since ‘earlier’ is not noun, it is understood by default that noun phrase ‘female doctors who were there’ is omitted since as per rule of parallelism, noun phrase can only be compared with noun phrase. If it is missing after ‘than’ then it is supposed to be compared with itself as described in the subject before the link verb.

Notice that the difference in meaning of the following two sentences having same pattern. While one is correct the other is incorrect.

In this teacher’s colony, residents who are teachers are fewer than those residents who were teachers earlier. {Here comparison is not with respect to different time reference}

Doctors who are female are fewer than those doctors who were female earlier. {Incorrect; means those doctors who were female earlier but not female any more}

Whereas ‘those residents’ is correct ‘those doctors’ is incorrect. While ‘those’ can substitute noun phrase of main clause, ‘those residents/doctors’ cannot.

Correction:

Doctors who are female are fewer than those who were female earlier.

= There are fewer female doctors than there were in the past.

Notice the construction with ‘there’ as dummy subject

There are fewer female doctors than there used to be [=were previously]. {Use of ‘they’ and ‘those who’ is grammatically incorrect.}

Notice that construction after ‘than’ is same whether ‘fewer’ precedes noun phrase or follows link verb ‘are’.


Fewer doctors are female than the doctors who were female earlier. {‘than female doctors earlier’ is incorrect}

Fewer doctors are female than there were (doctors who were female) earlier.

Fewer doctors are female than they were earlier.

Fewer doctors are female than [those]/ [doctors who were female] before/earlier.

Fewer doctors are female than those who were (female) before/earlier.{‘those’ is not a pronoun for ‘all doctors’ but ‘a ‘sub group of doctors’; therefore ‘those who were’ is correct but ‘doctors who were’ is incorrect}

Fewer doctors are female than [those] / [female doctors] who were there before.


Fewer female doctors are in the OPD than [those (who are)] / [they are] in the emergency wards.

Fewer female doctors are in the OPD than there are (female doctors) in the emergency wards.

Fewer female doctors are in the OPD than the doctors in the emergency wards who are female.


Following examples are of comparison of noun phrase with itself where noun phrase is post-modified by preposition or participle which may also be alternately described by a predicate or verb.


Fat is less in cow's milk than (it is) in buffalo's milk. {Comparison in predicate clause with respect to complement clause}

= The fat in cow's milk is less than (it is) in buffalo's milk. {Comparison of phrases with prepositional complements}

{If preposition ‘in’ is not repeated after ‘than’ meaning will be different}

= There is less fat in cow milk than (there is) in buffalo milk. {Comparison of noun phrases in predicate clause}

Tickets sold last year were less/lower than ([the tickets sold]/[they were]/[those]) a year ago.

= Tickets were sold less last year than ([the tickets that were sold]/ [they were sold]/ [those]) a year ago.

= Less ticket was sold last year than a year ago.

Athletes winning medals were fewer last year than ([the athletes winning medals]/ [they are]/ [those]) this year.

= Fewer athletes won medals last year than ([the athletes winning medals] / [the athletes who won medals] / [those who did] / [they did] this year.

Similar Examples: [Rejections of finished goods were fewer / Fewer finished goods were rejected/ There were fewer rejections of finished goods/ Finished goods rejected were fewer] after the implementation of stage-wise inspection parameters and in-process quality control; Energy consumed was less/ Less energy was consumed/ Consumption of energy was less

Notice that ‘Cases of infection’ in ‘Cases of infection before/after vaccination’ is not same as examples above where ‘rejection/consumption’ are action verbs and therefore link ‘be’ verb cannot be replaced by action verb. In all of these sentences, ‘than before’ is omitted as understood.


B. Comparing number of Same Noun head having Different modifiers or complements

The number of male nurses is lower than the number of female nurses. {‘the number’ must be repeated because the noun phrase ‘female nurses’ is different from ‘male nurses’ which is noun phrase of main clause; this applies when noun phrase is ‘number of X’ in main clause and ‘number of Y’ after ‘than’}

Notice that omission of ‘number’ after ‘than’ is not permissible, since ‘number’ must be compared with ‘number’ when ‘number’ is the noun head in main clause.


The nurses who are male are fewer than the nurses who are female.

{Comparison with respect to adjective modifier clause}

= Nurses who are male are fewer than [the number of female nurses] / [females].

= Those nurses who are male are fewer than those who are female.

Notice that ‘the’, ‘those /those’ are used to refer to what is separate, different, and distinct belonging to a known group. Following sentences are not for specific but general comparison often referring to percentage. Because of general comparison, ‘fewer’, may also mean ‘less common’ and hence ‘fewer in number/percentage’ instead of ‘fewer’ is used for clarity.


Male nurses are fewer (in number) than female nurses.

Nurses who are male are fewer in number than nurses who are female.

Nurses who are male are fewer in number than those who are female.

Nurses who are male are fewer in number than female nurses.

Fewer nurses are male than (those who are) female.

Fewer nurses are male than (they are) female in number.

Notice repetition of ‘nurses’ after fewer than’ but only ‘female’ after ‘than’ when it is separated from ‘fewer’.


Similar noun phrases for comparison with prepositional complement, possessive adjective, participle complement: Electronic goods of Indian make /Chinese make, Nurses from Kerala/ from other states, Matches own by India/ Pakistan, Girls opting for science/commerce, Salt water fish/Fresh water fish, Adults/Children who died of Covid


Shops in central market are more than the shops in the whole of rest of the city.

{Comparison with respect to Prepositional Complement}

= There are more shops in the central market than in the whole of rest of the city.

Notice that in case of ‘more than’ noun head ‘shops’ is repeated because of comparison between noun phrases. But in case of only ‘than’, only prepositional complements are compared which precede and follow ‘than’.


Her books on Comics are more than my books on comics (= mine). {Comparison with respect to different possessive adjectives}

=She has more books on comics than (the books of comics) I have (= me). {Comparison with respect to different possessors}

Notice the repetition of common noun phrase ‘books on comics’ after ‘more than’ but omission of it after ‘than’ when ‘more’ and ‘than’ are separated by separating noun phrase from the possessor. This is not the case when noun heads are different with same or different complement/modifier.


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