Who knows better than I or better than me?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by minederien, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. minederien Senior Member

    hello all,
    I know "I" is used when it's a subject and "me" when it's an object but what about the comparative form?
    "who knows better than me that ...." or "who knows better than I that..."
    Thanks for your help
  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    I say "Who knows better than I that..." A lot of people use "me" in this context, but I definitely prefer to use "I" in such statements.
  3. Oeco

    Oeco Senior Member

    Milwaukee, WI
    English - US
    Since the pronoun is in the predicate part of the sentence, it has become common to use the objective case. Thus "who knows better than me?" It should be nominative, but this has become a well known practice and the use of "I" in this case would sound a bit pretentious, at least here in the states.
  4. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    You will probably find "better than I" recommended by most grammar books, but "better than me" on the lips of most colloquial speakers.
  5. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
  6. minederien Senior Member

    Thank you all.
  7. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    Better than me/I do/I. All are acceptable.
    It depends on whether you think than is a preposition or not.
  8. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Personally I prefer to use I only with a first-person verb, e.g. "Who knows better than I do that ...".
    Be careful with sentences like the following:

    He knows you better than me. [= ... better than he does me.]
    He knows you better than I. [= ... better than I do.]
  9. nutcase Member

    Who knows better than I do that...
    Who knows better than me that...

    The same goes with:
    He is as tall as me.
    He is as tall as I am.
  10. mplsray Senior Member

    The problem with this reasoning is that it does not work in the case of "He knows you better than me." which can also mean--but is not grammatically equivalent to--"He knows you better than I know you." In such a case, than functions as a preposition with an object in the objective case which is not the subject of a shortened clause--leaving the sentence ambiguous.

    As a matter of style, I would avoid any sentence ending in "than I," "than we," "than he," "than she," "than they." In all such cases, I would add "do." In my opinion, leaving "do" out (or "am," as nutcase points out, and likely other verbs) makes the sentence sound ugly.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2010
  11. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    But don't prepositional phrases usually modify the nearest part of the sentence?

    He was talking to you instead of me.
    He likes you instead of me.
    He likes you rather than me.

  12. mplsray Senior Member

    I stand by my opinion that "He knows you better than me" is ambiguous. The sentences you quote, as far as I can tell, do not suffer from the same ambiguity.
  13. mplsray Senior Member

    I found an example where a writer (or writers) pointed to the possibility of ambiguity involving "than me." In the article "than" in Case Analysis and Fundamentals of Legal Writing by William P. Statsky and R. John Wernet, available in preview via Google Books,[1] it is stated that "she likes Paul better than she likes me" is "clearer phasing" than "she likes Paul better than me." I agree that with the verb "likes" the sentence is ambiguous.

    The same article states that "she likes Paul better than I like him" is "clearer phrasing" than "she likes Paul better than I." In a world in which people use "between you and I," I suppose the authors have a point.

    In any case, "clearer phasing" must mean that the original phrase was less than clear.

    Note [1]: I searched for

    ambiguity "better than me" "better than i"
  14. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Actually, my three sentences have different meanings with different entonations, so I imagine "clearer phrasing" would be preferable with them too, if possible (e.g. "It is he, rather than me, who likes you" or "It is you he likes, rather than me").
  15. If you are going to be extremely picky then you would say 'better than I.'

    However, most native speakers may laugh if you said that as most would say 'better than me.'

    Grammatically speaking 'better than I' is correct, but 98% of people would never say that, because they either think it is incorrect or to obnoxious. It's just not used nowdays, unfortunately.
  16. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    I agree with what you say, except when you say "Grammatically speaking 'better than I' is correct".
    On what basis do you make this statement? Are you denying that than can be regarded as a preposition. You seem to be saying that than can only be a conjunction.
    I also suspect that your 98% may be an underestimate.
  17. Hi e2efour,

    ahh you are right, I think I oversimplified the use there. It does depend whether you class the 'than' as a conjunction or as a preposition. If the word is used a conjunction, grammatically speaking, you should use 'I.' If it is classed as a preposition you should use 'me.'

    For example, the choice of pronoun can change the entire meaning of the sentence:
    My brother likes cricket more than I.
    My brother likes cricket more than me.

    A. He likes cricket more than I do.
    B. He likes cricket more than he likes me.

    However, as said before, the use of I is generally regarded as obnoxious, however it does avoid potentially ambiguous sentences, also the incorrect usage of 'me' may be frowned upon in literary or offical documents.
  18. curiosone

    curiosone Senior Member

    Romagna, Italy
    AE - hillbilly ;)
    I reopen this thread, as a disagreement has come up with a BE friend. He corrected an Italian friend of ours who said: "It looks like the voices in my head are more famous than I" by saying she should have said "...than I am."
    I corrected him, saying what she had said was NOT incorrect, because "am" is understood, in this context (so she could say either "...than I am" or "...than I" and be equally correct.

    Any opinions on the matter? Is one form (or the other) preferable? Thank you
  19. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    I, for what it's worth, agree with you that 'am' is implicit in stamenents such as this and I would not bat an eyelid on hearing 'than I'. I'm pretty sure that grammarians' piece of advice here would be to include 'am', though.
    Bearing in mind that it was, I gather, an informal conversation with a non-native speaker of English, I think the three of you could have done without the correction of your British friend....
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2013
  20. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Here is a three-page thread going over this ground. There is no answer that everyone agrees on. The WRF dictionary has this to say about "than" in the conjunction vs. preposition debate.
    The use of I without the corresponding am or do being explicit is seeming more and more formal (or sounding like a hypercorrection) to more and more people and the use of than as a preposition (taking an object, therefore followed by "me") is extremely popular. "Correct" is not a good word to use in this discussion :D
  21. morior_invictus

    morior_invictus Senior Member

    I agree with JulianStuart,
    we have two possibilities – to understand "than" as a preposition ("It looks like the voices in my head are more famous than me.") or as a conjunction ("It looks like the voices in my head are more famous than I am." and although the verb "am" is often dropped or "understood," I consider both versions appropriate).
  22. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I think the question is of formality. Unless you and all your friends are diplomats, Oxford dons, or ancien régime aristocrats, you'd want to have a normal, friendly discusion. In that context "... more famous than I" doesn't quite fit, because using "I" and dropping the verb is very high-toned. I think the British friend just wanted to make sure that the Italian wouldn't be judged as pretentious or stuck-up by using a very formal form in a not-that-formal context (among friends). In other words, his caution probably had more to do with appropriateness than with grammatical correctness.
  23. curiosone

    curiosone Senior Member

    Romagna, Italy
    AE - hillbilly ;)
    Thanks for all the points of view.:) Personally I was raised by a rather formal mother, who was VERY particular about correct grammar, so I dislike the colloquial form of "than me" (I learned to say "This is she" on the phone, at a very young age!). Anyway in this case our friend (who speaks better English than many Italians) understood that "than I" (without the verb) was incorrect (which it isn't). What I told her was that both are correct, but the "...than I am" is more frequently used than the other.
  24. mgoebbels New Member

    Damn right! good example.


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