How to Avoid Common Errors in Your Comparisons

The grammar police will arrive, warrant in hand, if your comparisons aren’t parallel. There are lots of pitfalls when making comparisons in English. You can avoid common errors, by watching out for the following comparison structures:

  • More/than

  • But not

  • As well as

Comparisons with these words are tricky but not impossible. Just be sure that the elements you are comparing match grammatically. Check out these examples:

Lulu was more conservative than daring in her choice of clothes for Larry’s wedding.
Even so, Larry liked the way Lulu moved but not the way she looked.
Lulu enjoyed the ceremonial garter-toss as well as the ritual bouquet-bonfire.

The italicized words in each sentence pair off nicely. In the first sample sentence, conservative and daring are both descriptions. In the second sample sentence, the way Lulu moved and the way she looked are similar constructions — nouns described by adjective clauses, if you absolutely must know. In the third sample sentence, garter-toss and bouquet-bonfire are both nouns.

To illustrate parallel comparisons further, here are some incorrect and corrected pairs:

Wrong: Lola sang more forcefully than with the correct notes.
Why it’s wrong: forcefully and with the correct notes don’t match.
Right: Lola sang more forcefully than correctly.
Why it’s right: The sentence compares two adverbs.

Here’s another example:

Wrong: Ella assumed that she would live in a separate castle but not spending every hour with Larry.
Why it’s wrong: The words but not join a subject–verb combination and verb form.
Right: Ella assumed that she would live in a separate castle but not that she would spend every hour with Larry.
Why it’s right: The sentence compares two subject–verb combinations.

A question may have occurred to you: How do you know how many words of the sentence are being joined? The decision comes from the meaning of the sentence. Forget grammar for a moment and put yourself into reading comprehension mode. Decide what you’re comparing based on the ideas in the sentence. Now check the two ideas being compared and go back into grammar mode. Do the ideas match grammatically? If so, you’re fine. If not, reword your sentence.

Which sentence is correct?

A. Michael told Max that the ceremony was canceled but not that the couple planned to elope.
B. Michael told Max that the ceremony was canceled but not about the planned elopement.

Answer: Sentence A is correct. That the ceremony was canceled matches that the couple planned to elope. In sentence B, that the ceremony was canceled has a subject–verb pair, but about the elopement is a prepositional phrase with no subject–verb pair.

Summon up your energy and try again. Which sentence is correct?

A. Lulu’s assumption that the snake was more showy than dangerous proved fatally wrong.
B. Lulu’s assumption that the snake was more putting on a show than it was dangerous proved fatally wrong.

Answer: Sentence A is correct. Showy matches dangerous; both are descriptions. In sentence B, putting on a show has a verb form but not a subject. Its partner, it was dangerous, has both a subject and a verb.

  • Add a Comment
  • Print
  • Share
blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement

Inside Dummies.com

Dummies.com Sweepstakes

Win $500. Easy.