more than was due to her [missing subject?]

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

But my mother, frightened as she was, would not consent to take a fraction more than was due to her, and was obstinately unwilling to be content with less. (from Treasure Island)

In this sentence above, why is there not a subject before the underlined part? We generally say “something is due to somebody", right?

Thank you very much.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The meaning is clear: She would not consent to take a fraction more than she was due.

    I have no idea what the grammatical rule or device is that allows "she was due" to be changed to "was due to her", but it is still part of modern English, usually following "more than" or "less than". Perhaps someone else will be able to shed some more light on the matter.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi,

    But my mother, frightened as she was, would not consent to take a fraction more than was due to her, and was obstinately unwilling to be content with less. (from Treasure Island)

    In this sentence above, why is there not a subject before the underlined part? We generally say “something is due to somebody", right?

    Thank you very much.
    I suspect there's an assumed relative here - She would not consent to take a fraction more than that which was due to her.

    The original is perfectly standard English: there's no error, nothing missing.
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you.

    Are these sentences below correct?

    He did not consent to take more than was owed to him.
    He did not consent to take more than belonged to him.
    He did not have more strength for carrying this stone than was necessary.
    This is harder than [ I/she/he ] expected.
    That job is easier than [we/they/he] thought.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    He did not consent to take more than was owed to him. :tick:
    He did not consent to take more than belonged to him. :tick:
    He did not have more strength for carrying this stone than was necessary. :confused:
    This is harder than [ I/she/he ] expected. :tick:
    That job is easier than [we/they/he] thought. :confused: [It is, of course, fine with a pronoun]​

    The first one has exactly the same structure as the original sentence. You could either choose to insert "that which" or change "to him" into a subject "he".
    In the second, I see that my suggestion of changing "to him" into a subject does not work, but you can still insert Thomas Tompion's "that which".

    The general construction of the third sentence is okay, but we don't generally talk about people not having more strength than is necessary for something. A sentence like "He did no more than was necessary" is common.

    In the fourth sentence, with no pronoun, we can speak of a general level of expectation. This is harder than a reasonable person might have expected. Of course, if the pronoun is omitted, then it is usually expressed from the perspective of the person doing the job: This is harder than expected = this is harder than I expected (if it is me doing the job).

    While we can refer to general expectations, it is a different matter referring to general thoughts, which are too personal. In the last sentence, you need a pronoun to explicitly state who was doing the thinking.
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you for your clarification.
    Can /Should I omit the word "what" in this: I can't tell you more than [what] happened.
    Context: You wanted me to tell you what had happened. I did, but you insisted that there was something more about it. So I say: I can't tell you more than [what] happened.
    Can I get a general rule which can apply to other sentences? Without a rule, I have to ask questions specifically.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Can /Should I omit the word "what" in this: I can't tell you more than [what] happened.
    You need "what".

    I cannot come up with any better explanation than the last two paragraphs in my last post for where a pronoun can be omitted. I think this situation could only ever arise if "I" could be a possible pronoun (but usually you can't omit "I" either).

    It appears that omitting "that which" only applies when the verb has an object, [Edited after reading post #8 and replying in post #9]
     
    Last edited:

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you, Uncle Jack.
    How about these two sentences? Should I add a subject before the underlined part?
    The difficulties are even greater than appears at first sight.
    The scandal is more serious than is reported.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Both are fine, although I would certainly use the past tense for the first and probably the present perfect for the second. Both of these are "that which" sentences, and it appears that the last line of mine in post #7 is wrong. Note that, as with all the other "that which" sentences in this thread, there is nothing wrong with them as written; they are standard modern English, and nothing has been omitted.
     
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