Comparisons Using Than

I’ve seen some documents recently in which people try to compare two things using the word “then” rather than “than.”

Bad Example:

My brother and sister are both younger then me.

That sentence actually has two things wrong with it. First, change “then” to “than.” Then change the word “me” to “I.”

Corrected Example:

My brother and sister are both younger than I. 

(Think: younger than I am.)

“Than” is used as a conjunction here, comparing two subjects; thus, the pronouns after it should take the subjective case. As a review, the subject pronouns are: I, he, she, we, they. Object pronouns include: me, him, her, us, them.

Other good examples of “than” comparing subjects:

She is shorter than I.

He is not smarter than she.  (Think: smarter than she is.)

Now, if  you’re comparing direct or indirect objects, the pronouns after “than” should be objective case.

Example:

I’ve never worked with a more difficult client than him. 

(Think: never worked with … him.)

In The English Language: A User’s Guide, Professor Jack Lynch of Rutgers University uses the following two sentences to illustrate the difference in meaning when using the subjective and objective case:

1) He has more friends than I.  (Think: than I do)

Here, his total number of friends is higher than my total number of friends.

2) He has more friends than me. (Think:  he has … me)

This means that I’m not his only friend; he has others.

Sometimes doing the grammatically correct thing sounds stuffy, so many people use the objective case pronouns when speaking because “He’s taller than me” sounds more natural. However, in technical writing, I recommend keeping the correct case to avoid confusion, particularly in the following situation:

Nobody appoints better managers than he.  (He appoints the best managers.)

Nobody appoints better managers than him.  (He is the best manager ever to be appointed.)

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