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The more... the less (easy)
In this lesson, we'll study a structure that can be a real trap even for Advanced Learners.
This construction expresses a parallel progression: the more... the more... / the less... the less... When one element of the comparison increases, the second one does too... If it decreases, the other one does too. Yet, sometimes an element increases, whereas the other one decreases. The construction is then almost similar.
The wording is misleading. It is a comparison, therefore a comparative should be used. (and is used!). Because of the word 'the' (here an adverb) preceding "more", that stucture is often mistaken for a superlative. It's not!
1) Comparative used with a verb:
The only difficulty lies in the word order... : The + comparative expression + subject + verb.
Make sure that you remember... The VERB is placed at the end of the clause.
- The more she talks, the more confused her explanations become.
2) Comparative used with an adjective:
Here, the (very little) difficulty lying in the construction of the comparatives of adjectives is added to the other issue of the word order (In English, the verb is always placed at the end of the sentence).
The + adjective in the COMPARATIVE + subject + verb.
You must make a difference between short adjectives and long ones.
- a : The older he grows, the more impatient he becomes.
In this example, 'old' is a short adjective. The comparative is formed when you add "- er" to the short adjective => old=> 'older' => 'the older...'
On the contrary, 'impatient' is a long adjective and its comparative is built with 'more'.=> 'the more impatient... '
- b : The richer he is, the more generous he should be with the poor!
- The 'negative progression', ('the less... the less... for the two different forms of adjectives) has no difficulty at all.
- The less high you climb, the less difficult it will be. (word order)
3) Comparative used with a noun: well, well... That's when students forget what's most important: the WORD ORDER ! (Yet, it's the same!)
- The more chocolate he eats, the fewer sweets we will give him.
'Chocolate' is here an uncountable noun ( = that you can't count! = '(some) chocolate') =>
the more + countable/ uncountable noun. (more + countables/ uncountables= expressing an increasing quantity)
On the contrary, ' a sweet' is 'countable'. (You can count sweets!) and the construction changes for "countables" used to express a smaller quantity:
Then, it must be preceded by FEW => 'a few sweets'=> 'fewer sweets'=> 'the fewer sweets'=> the fewer + countable noun in the plural.
- The less chocolate he eats, the more sweets he'll ask for!
- The more exercises you do, the fewer mistakes you'll make at the test.
* Irregular forms: some adjectives have irregular comparatives.
- bad => comparative form= worse - (superlative form - not used here! = the worst)
- good => better - (the best)
- far - farther - (the farthest) ( concrete distance)
far - further - (the furthest) ( abstract distance)
The following exercise is for beginners. It is a MCQ (multiple choice quiz), which means that you're given several answers and you simply have to choose the good one! A more difficult exercise, concerning the word order, will be given in another test test where you'll have to choose the whole construction of the sentence. In this test, you should reach the maximum mark easily. Good luck!
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