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The more ... the fewer ...
This is the basic explanation, for beginners, of an aspect of grammar which is really problematic to many Learners, and even to more Advanced ones...
(If you want to go much further into this topic, you may study lesson test.) It deals with parallel progression : the more ... the more... / the less ... the less ....
The terminology is deceiving. It is really a comparison, therefore, it must be expressed by a comparative, which, because of the determiner 'the' preceding it, is often wrongly mistaken for a superlative by Learners.
1) Used with a verb :
The only difficulty lies in the word order : The + comparative expression + subject + verb.
ex : The more I work, the more tired I am.
2) Used with an adjective :
The + adjective in the comparative + subject + verb.
ex 1 : The older he grows, the more impatient he becomes.
Here, together with the very little difficulty of building the comparatives of adjectives, must be added the problem we have already mentioned of the word order (the verb must be placed at the end of the clause).
In the preceding example, 'old' is a short adjective. The comparative is built when you add '- er' to the short adjective => 'the older ...'
On the contrary, 'impatient' is a long adjective and is built with 'more'.=> 'the more impatient ... '
ex 2 : The higher you climb, the more dangerous it becomes !
- as far as 'negative progression' is concerned, 'the less ... the less ...' : there are no particular difficulties :
ex : The less high you climb, the less difficult it will be. ( the word order)
3) Used with a noun :
ex : The more chocolate he eats, the fewer sweets he will need.
'Chocolate' is an uncountable noun (that you can't count) => the more + uncountable.(more + countable/uncountable = big quantity)
On the contrary, 'sweet', is a countable noun. (Sweets can be counted.) therefore, this word MUST BE PRECEDED by FEW => the fewer sweets => the fewer + countable. For a small quantity, with an uncountable, use less.
ex 2 : The less chocolate he eats, the more sweets he will ask for !
ex : The more exercises you do, the fewer mistakes you'll make.
Irregular forms :
- bad - worse - the worst
- good - better - the best
- far - farther - the farthest ( concrete distance )
- far - further - the furthest ( abstract distance )
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