a better English

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by malina, May 9, 2008.

  1. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Hi,

    Can I say "He speaks better English than her. He speaks a better English"?

    As English is a noun, I think I can as "A better world is possible" and so on but I would like a confirmation.

    Thanks
     
  2. güerita25 Junior Member

    English US
    It is possible to say that, but it sounds awkward. I would suggest:

    "He speaks better English than her. He speaks a (more refined, clearer, etc) English" I think it is the "better" that sounds funny in this phrase.
     
  3. tuifua Junior Member

    English - United States
    I think either way it should be, "Than she," and not, "Than her." I think this because you are comparing subjects, not objects. She > Subject, Her > Object. Correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  4. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Thanks both of you.

    But, is it possible to say "a better English"? For example: "Since she is studying in London, she speaks a better English"
     
  5. RosaJson New Member

    Seattle, WA
    USA-English
    Yes, it's possible but very rare (and it sounds strange). It's more common to say "she has better English." I think that's because in this case "English-speaking skills" is implied by "English." :)
     
  6. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I would say "X speaks better English than Y" (without "a").
     
  7. turi Senior Member

    En un lugar de Catalunya
    Catalán y castellano.
    Yes, and you would say "her English has improved since she has been studying in London"
     
  8. bardos

    bardos Senior Member

    english andalucía
    A subject pronoun in English can never stand alone. mejor que ella = better than her, OR "better than she can" (now accompanied by a verb)
     
  9. bardos

    bardos Senior Member

    english andalucía
    both are possible, the second form sounds a bit formal, literary, from the past century perhaps. but, still correct, if we define correct as "what is in use by english speaking people."
     
  10. RussUS Senior Member

    California, USA
    English, United States
    tuifua,

    You are correct. I've cited a couple of souces since somebody said you were not correct.

    http://www1.towson.edu/ows/ModuleCASE.htm
    Comparisons
    Often we compare one thing, quality, or person to another by using either than or as . . . as to form the comparison. When we are using nouns in the comparison, there is no need to worry about choosing a “correct” noun.
    The difficulty arises when a pronoun is substituted for the noun coming after the comparison. You must choose between subjective and objective forms.

    “Joe is shorter than Martha.”

    Here is a helpful hint to aid you in choosing correct pronoun
    The sentence: “Joe is shorter than Martha” can be carried out to its logical end:

    “Joe is shorter than Martha is.”

    The correct pronoun can be determined by “completing” the idea of the sentence. In the examples above, a subject pronoun (she) is the correct one.
    Thus the sentence becomes:


    “Joe is shorter than she is.”


    She is the correct pronoun to use here:


    “Joe is shorter than she.”


    http://www.fortunecity.com/bally/durrus/153/gramch22.html#2a3

    vi. The use of the subjective case
    In comparisons using than, personal pronouns following than should be in the subjective case.
    e.g. I am taller than he is.
    She is a better student than I am.

    In formal English, the final verb of such sentences is sometimes omitted.
    e.g. I am taller than he.
    She is a better student than I.

    In informal English, the objective case of a personal pronoun is often used after than.
    e.g. I am taller than him.
    She is a better student than me.
    However, this use of the objective case is considered to be grammatically incorrect.
     
  11. bardos

    bardos Senior Member

    english andalucía
    russUS,

    i am still in disagreement on this point. it is an interesting one. i know that we can find myriads of grammar books which talk about "formal english", but oft times i find that when this term is used, i.e. "formal english", they are sometimes referring to an english spoken two centuries back in 19th century novels.

    i will stick to my guns here and say that "than", as a preposition, must be followed by objective case. i think you would never ever hear this (subjective case) in spoken (or literary) english of today.

    what u think?
     
  12. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Hi,

    Thank you all of you for your answers, your're great.

    "Than her" sounds more natural to me. I've always been taught that "she" can't be used if there is no verb after it, so I would say:

    “Joe is shorter than she is.”


    “Joe is shorter than her.”

    But, of course, you're the natives, so I'll follow your discussion with high interest if I can put it that way. Thanks again, I'm learning a lot.

     
  13. RussUS Senior Member

    California, USA
    English, United States
    I think "than" is not a preposition at all, rather a subordinating conjunction.

    I gave citations so that forum members could check if they wished to see whether these citations were some old, out-of-date guides; they are not, rather current guides as used in colleges.

    I see quite often on the forum people giving answers "because it sounds better to them." In this specific forum where the goal is for people more knowledgeable about another language to learn what is correct in English, I feel like a more substantial response is warranted. I am aware that "rules" do change as time goes by, but if we won't accept any guidance at all as to what is correct or not, what's it all good for anyway?

    Regarding your last point re prepositions and subjective case, one of my pet peeves which I'm sure I'll have to accept as it is rapidly becoming common usage is this horrific, (to me) usage invented, I believe by good ol' boys in NASCAR given a microphone and having been badgered all their lives that "Him and ol' Billly Bob went to town," isn't correct, hypercorrect and replace him with he in all cases.

    I speak of "between he and ..." I have seen to my chagrin recently such knowledgeable and highly educated people as Chris Matthews and Carl Rove use this structure.

    Then of course, I suspect you might also defend the very common usage of putting -ly on all adjectives, turning them into adverbs because their sentence placement is near the end of the sentence. I actually heard, once again from a person I consider knowledgeable and well-educated, "You look splendidly, today."

    And...I have to add the ever-wonderful "importantly." That one, I fear has gone the way of hopefully.

    I wondered about a comment you made, repeated later by Malina that pronouns have to be followed by a verb. I have never heard that. Would you maybe have a citation?

    In any case, a good discussion, and I think still on topic....
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2008
  14. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    "To speak a better English" implies that there are different versions of the English language and that you are choosing one version over another.
    "To speak better English" means that you speak English in a more educated manner.

    As to the issue of she/her: "she" is clearly the grammatically correct choice, although it is common to hear "her" (a grammatical error) when the phrase is not completed (you would sould like a complete dope if you were to say "better than her is"). Having said that, however, there are similar phrases in which the correct grammatical construction is never used by anyone - e.g., Who's there? It's me. (never "I", except in Charles Dickens' novels).
     
  15. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Hi RussUs,

    thanks for your explanation. There is some things I don't understant. One of them is this, let's see if you can help me. I've found in the internet (I was trying to remember all of this of "subjective case" and "objective case") this example:

    Use the objective case after "than" if the comparison features a noun or pronoun with the adjective.

    There is no faster runner than her.
    If the sentence included only the adjective FASTER, the pronoun would be subjective (There is no faster than she).

    Is this sentence built like my original sentence? He speaks better English (a noun) than her.

    If so, the use of "her" should be correct?

    Thank you very much.
     
  16. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    Really? Now I am confused. I will never say or write it that way. I would say or write "He speaks better English than her" or "He speaks better English than she does"
    or "His English language skills are better than hers" (although this one is a bit too formal for my taste)
     
  17. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    "her" would never be grammatically correct in your examples, although you'll find it being used all the time. The rule you cite above seems to be grammatical nonsense to me - it may be a rule to explain common usage, but it's not grammatical.
     
  18. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    You can say it that way ("than her") and no one will look at you funny because it's a very common grammatical error, but it's still grammatically incorrect as you can see when you complete the phrase and switch to "than she does." Your last example is something completely different (her skills). In this case, "hers" is a possessive pronoun modifying "skills" and is correct.
     
  19. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    Thank you!
    But what about these examples from Oxford Advanced Learner's dictionary?:
    you gave me less than him
    I am older than her

    I do not get it.
     
  20. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    you gave me less than (you gave) him - correct because "him" is the direct object of the verb, so it takes objective case

    I am older than her (is old) - incorrect - the pronoun is the subject of the verb and needs to be in nominative/subjective case.
     
  21. RussUS Senior Member

    California, USA
    English, United States
    Malina,

    I looked up the source of your example and found it to be the University of Oregon, which I accept as an authoritative source. I cannot understand the distinction, but agree that their example is exactly parallel to your usage.

    I guess since we all seem to agree that we all (myself included) say it that way anyway, who am I to argue? So, I give!

    I think you use grammar better than me!

    Best,

    Russ
     
  22. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    Thank you but, why is it in the dictionary?
     
  23. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    Over time, bad usage becomes so common that it starts to be accepted as normal. I own a dictionary of English Usage (Mirriam Webster) that I refer to all the time, and I have yet to find any usage that the dictionary declares to be wrong; it simply justifies the bad usage by citing examples of prominent people using it. And so it goes. I'll stick to my prior statement: it may be commonly used, but it's still bad grammar.
     
  24. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    I have it too! I just looked "than" up but there was too much information. Maybe some other time.:D

    Thank you!
     
  25. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    :) Thanks for your answer.

    Best wishes
     
  26. bardos

    bardos Senior Member

    english andalucía
    i teach english, have been doing so for the past 25 years. doesn't mean i know everything, (check those last two sentences for lack of subject) but i have developed certain opinions about the language.

    here's the thing, spanish people are shocked to learn that there does not exist something similar to the RAE to govern the english language. the english language is a constantly evolving anarchical beast in the sense that the "rules" are made by usage. enough people begin to use a certain form or word and there you go... it's picked up by the major dictionary business folks, the closest thing we have to the RAE, and then it's english.

    when i teach, i tell my students that i am not teaching them the rules of a language, although it may seem like that, i am simply teaching them to copy, to imitate exactly how the british and american people are using the language. (not to mention 10 other nationalities).

    that is what makes for "correctness".

    i have been intrigued and pleased by folks' comments in this thread. nice to have interacted with you.
     
  27. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
     
  28. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    Why is it that you do not use capital "i" when appropriate?
     
  29. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    He/she doesn't believe in rules. ;)
     
  30. RussUS Senior Member

    California, USA
    English, United States
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RussUS [​IMG]

    I guess since we all seem to agree that we all (myself included) say it that way anyway, who am I to argue? So, I give!

    I think you use grammar better than me! (don't say so, I'm just a student) :(

    Best,

    Russ


    Malina,

    You missed my little joke. I made up a sentence to use the structure we were discussing that I contended (and still believe in spite of your citation to the contrary) was wrong.

    R
     
  31. RussUS Senior Member

    California, USA
    English, United States
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by la zarzamora

    Thank you but, why is it in the dictionary?


    You're right FromPA. If you look in the preface to the dictionary, you will likely find a statement that it is a "descriptive," as opposed to a "prescriptive" dictionary. That, of course means the dictionary makes no claim as to the correctness of usages, pronunciations, or even meanings, simply reports what is commonly spoken or written by users of the language. I remember as a youth (a long time ago,) we used to love to point out to our teachers that "ain't," which they always instructed us not to use, was in the dictionary, making it, to our young minds, correct.

    As bardos points out, we have nothing similar to the RAE so our language evolves rather quickly. I try to accept this with equanimity, but am rarely successful, as you might have noted from my hanrangue above concerning some really offensive usages that are becoming commonplace.
     
  32. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Hi,

    Don't worry. I understood the joke. It's because of my lack of fluency I couldn't give a proper answer.
    I know you disagree but I like the point that there's no such a RAE in English so there's no way to say when something is correct, but talking about its use.

    Best wishes
     
  33. bardos

    bardos Senior Member

    english andalucía

    It's an internet habit, formed by many years of being on-line. On most forums capitals make you feel that you're shouting. It definitely is something I should change on this forum where what I write may have an effect on those whose first language is not English. I will try to change this habit when communicating on this forum.

    thx (thanks)
     
  34. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Hi everyone and hi RussUs,

    I am less lazy today than the previous days so I've been consulting my personal bible for all these things: Greenbaum & Quirk's A Student's Grammar of the English Language.

    In its point 6.7 says:


    "The choice of subjective and objective forms does not depend solely upon the strict grammatical distinction between subject and object. Rather, usage shows that we are concerned more with subject "territory" (the pre-verbal part of a clause) in contrast to object "territory" (the post-verbal part of a clause). In consequence of the latter consideration, it is usual in informal style to find objective forms selected in such instances as the following:

    His sister is taller than him.
    Whoever left the door unlocked, it certainly wasn't me.

    Many people are uncomfortable about such forms, however, especially in writing, though the subject variants are almost equally objectionable in seeming unnatural. Where an operator can be added, of course, the problem of choice satisfactorily disappears:

    His sister is taller than he is."

    Well, it seems as you said that is a problem of "grammar" or "prescriptive grammar" vs. usage.

    By they way, can someone tell me the meaning of "operator" in the above text?

    Thanks and best wishes.
     
  35. bardos

    bardos Senior Member

    english andalucía
    algo así como "agente".
     
  36. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    I does not bother me, I was just wondering because here at wordreference forums they are very strict regarding rules. And seems like nobody says nothing to you. So I was confused.
    Anyway, I think that putting a small "i" when it should be a capital "I" looks really wrong, and it has absolutely nothing to do with writing in capital letters as if you were shouting. I also dislike all other "electronic" (by chat, mail, mobile phone) ways of writing. This is only my opinion.
    But I do find it hard to avoid using contractions here at the forum.
    Thank you
     
  37. malina

    malina Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Spanish/Catalan
    Hi,

    I don't know why you can't use contractions if the meaning is clear. At least, it's a rule I don't know.
     
  38. la zarzamora

    la zarzamora Senior Member

    buenos aires
    argentina-spanish
    I thought it was a rule!:eek: I suppose I will have to check the forum rules again.
     
  39. Emma3 Junior Member

    Spain
    English and Spanish

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