In last month's column, we looked at a group of problems that occur when Koreans writing in English try to express comparisons. In all of the problems we examined, the Korean writers used phrases with the word, 'com-pare', ['comparing', 'compared with', 'comparing with', etc.] in sentences in which the idea of comparison was already explicitly indicated by such features as comparative adjectives or the word, 'than'. I explained that you should avoid using the word, 'compare', in sentences which clearly express comparison. To quickly review this principle, let me ask you to correct the following Korean-English problem sentences:
1) xxx- In comparing with his brother, Fred is taller.
2) xxx- Our company has more international experience comparing with other companies.
3) xxx- Japan has the largest GNP compared with all the other countries in Asia.
These are very simple (and extremely typical!) examples of sentences where explicit comparisons are made and the word, 'compare', should be avoided.
You should have no problem correcting them as:
1' ok- Fred is taller than his brother.
2' ok- Our company has more international experience than other companies.
3' ok- Japan has the largest GNP of all the countries in Asia.
We also looked at some other, less obvious ways in which sentences presented explicit comparisons and should not include forms of the word, 'compare'. Again, by way of review, please see if you can correct these examples of typical problems:
4) xxx- Britain entered World War II two years early compared with the United States.
5) xxx- In conforming to international copyright conventions, Japan is ahead comparing with Singapore's case.
If you recall that words like 'before', 'after', 'ahead of', and 'behind' all express explicit comparisons, you'll be able to correct those sentences as:
4a ok- Britain entered World War II two years before the United States.
4b ok- Britain entered World War II two years earlier than the United States.
5a ok- In conforming to international copyright conventions, Japan is ahead of Singapore.
5b ok- Singapore is behind Japan in conforming to international copyright conventions.
Thus, the problems we examined last month involved the improper use of 'compare'; we concluded that use of 'compare' should be avoided in sentences which express explicit comparison with other devices, chiefly comparative adjectives and the word, 'than'.
Now I'd like to look at a very closely related kind of problem: situations in which Koreans expressing comparisons in English use the word, 'than' unnecessarily and incorrectly. Let's begin with an example taken from an editorial in an English-language newspaper published in Seoul:
6) xxx- The number of privately owned automobiles is more increased than five years ago.
Here's another example of the same problem, taken from a composition written by one of my advanced students:
7) xxx- Children's obedience to their parents is declined than when I was girl.
The problem in these two examples is the same, and is extremely common in the English written by Koreans. You will notice that while both sentences are expressing comparisons, they are comparisons of a rather special sort: comparisons across time. In other words, each of these sentences expresses a comparison between a situation or phenomenon at one period in time and the same situation or phenomenon at another period. So, while it is clear that these sentences do indeed express comparisons, they also express the idea of change over time.
Of course it is obvious that expressing a comparison between a situation at one period and the same situation at a different period is logically the same as expressing a change over time. However, in grammatical terms, the two functions are different. The problems in sentences 6 and 7, as in so many English sentence produced by Koreans, is that the grammatical structures for expressing comparison and for describing change are crammed together into one sentence. This can be seen if we look at the grammatical structures separately.
First, let's express the ideas in these sentences using the grammar of comparison:
6a ok- There are more privately owned automobiles (now) than there were five years ago.
6b ok- The number of privately owned automobiles is greater (now) than it was five years ago.
7a ok- Children's obedience to their parents is weaker (less strong, Jess) than it was when I was a girl.
7b ok- Children are Jess obedient to their parents than they were when I was a girl.
As you can see, these sentences are simple expressions of comparison. They use comparative adjectives ('more', 'greater', 'weaker', 'less', 'less strong', 'less obedient') and the word, 'than', to express comparison between an earlier and a later situation. We could also use the comparative structure, 'not as as...', to convey the same ideas:
6c ok- There weren't as many privately owned automobiles five years ago as there are now.
7c ok- Children today aren't as obedient to their parents as they were when I was a girl.
Again, while it is obvious that they are referring to some change over time, all of these correct version of sentences 6 and 7 use the grammar of comparison. However, it is also possible to express the same ideas using the grammar of change:
6d ok- The number of privately owned automobiles has increased [has grownJ over the last five years [... has increased in the last five years; ...past five years; ...has increased since 1983.]
7d ok- Children's obedience to their parents has declined [has decreased, has weakened, has diminished] since I was a girl [...in the years since I was a girl; ...since my girlhood].
Can you see that sentences 6c1 and 7d, although expressing essentially the same information as the earlier, comparative versions, are different in grammatical structure? In 6d and 7d, the focus is on change over time, and active verbs (increase, grow, decline, decrease, weaken, diminish) are used with phrases defining some period of time (over the last five years; in the past five years; since 1993; since I was a girl; in the years since I was a girl; since my girlhood). But note that these sentences employ no comparative grammar: they do not use comparative adjectives or 'than'.
The key, then, is to avoid conflating the grammar used to express comparison (comparative adjectives; 'than') with the grammar used to express change over time (verbs like 'increase', 'decrease', 'expand', 'decline', 'grow', and expressions defining a period of time). Although they can be used to express the same essential information, these are distinct grammatical structures and must not be combined or confused.
To check and consolidate your understanding of this principle, please look at this problem sentence:
8) xxx- The population of Korea was much increased in 1965 than in 1950.
Again, the grammar used to express comparison has been conflated with the grammar used to express change over time. Can you write two corrected versions, one using comparison grammar and one using 'change over time' grammar?
8b [change over time]
Here are my versions:
8a ok- The population of Korea was much greater in 1965 than in 1950.
ok- There were far more people in Korea in 1965 than (there were) in 1950.
ok- Korea had a much larger population in 1965 than (it had) in 1950.
All of these versions use the grammar of comparison. But I could express the same idea using the grammar of change over time:
8b ok- The population of Korea increased greatly between 1950 and 1965. ok- The population of Korea grew significantly in the period from 1950 to
NOTE: Do you understand why I used the simple past tense ("increased', 'grew') for sentence 8b instead of the present perfect ('has increased", 'has grown', 'has declined', 'has weakened') that I employed in correcting sentences 6 and 7? I used the perfective aspect in my corrected versions of
6 and 7 because those sentences concerned events extending from the past into the present; they dealt with past events and situations with an immediate bearing on the present. Sentence 8, however, concerns a period of time (1950-1965) which does not extend into the present; it is completely in the past. This is the reason that I used the simple past tense.
We will return to the patterns of expressing change over time, but first let's examine another kind of problem involving the unnecessary and incorrect use of 'than'.
In general, we cannot use the conjunction, 'than' unless it follows a comparative adjective ("He is taller than his father," "He has more patience than I have.") or 'rather' ("I would rather read than watch T.V."), or 'other' ("Other than tennis, what sports do you like?"). You would be amazed to discover how frequently Koreans writing in English forget this general rule when using 'than'. A composition written by a woman I know, a teacher of English at a middle school in Seoul, included this sentence:
9) xxx- I respect his reaction to the situation than my own.
This isn't a very interesting mistake, and I trust you can easily supply a corrected version:
9a ok- I respect his reaction to the situation more than my own.
9b ok- I have more respect for his reaction to the situation than for my own.
But here is a more interesting example of the same sort of problem. I have taken it from the English-language abstract of a masters thesis accepted by the Economics department of a top-ranked Korean university:
10) xxx- The Japanese level of personal savings is four times than the American level.
In this sentence, the writer has used the conjunction, 'than', although there is no comparative adjective (and no 'rather' or Pother'). This is incorrect. It would be simple to correct this sentence by supplying an appropriate comparative adjective. For example:
9a ok- The Japanese level of personal savings is four times higher than the American level.
However, it is also possible to express the same idea without using 'than' at all, and without any comparative adjective. In fact there are two versions:
9b ok- The Japanese level of personal savings is four times as high as the American level.
9c ok- The Japanese level of personal savings if four times the American level.
As you can see, the preposition, 'times', meaning 'multiplied by' does not require, indeed cannot be used with the conjunction, 'than', unless there is a comparative adjective. This is worth remembering, so please look carefully at these illustrative sentences:
a1 John is three times older than Fred.
a2 John is three times as old as Fred./ Fred is a third of John's age.
a3 John is three times Fred's age. (John's age is three times Fred's.) / Fred's age is a third of John's.
b. He's two times taller than I am. / He's two times [twice] as tall as I am. / He's twice my height. / I'm half his height.
c. His salary is four times higher than mine. / His salary is four times as much as mine. / His salary is four times mine. / My salary is a quarter of his
d. Yeah, I agree that this suit is nicer than mine. It's also five times
more expensive (than mine). / ...It also costs five times as much (as mine). / ...It's also five times the price (of mine).
Again, the key point is that it is possible to express these comparisons of proportion without using the conjunction, 'than'; we only use 'than' in those sentences where we employ a comparative adjective.
Now, with that principle in mind, let's return to sentences expressing change over time. Consider this problem sentence:
10) xxx- The value of land in this region is increased two times than last spring.
I'm sure you're able to write a corrected version expressing the same information in comparative form:
10a ok- The value of land in this region is two times higher than it was last spring. ok- The value of land in this region is twice (two times) as high as it was last spring. ok- The value of land in this region is twice what it was last spring. / Land in this region is (now) worth twice what it was worth last spring.
But how would you express the same information as a change over time? Well, you could write:
10b ok- The value of land in this region has increased by two times since last spring. / The value of land in this region has increased (by) 100 percent since last spring. '
But the most elegant way to express the idea of 'to increase by two times' is 'to doable':
10c ok- The value of land in this region has doubled since last spring.
Using the same pattern, we can say that some quantity 'doubles', 'triples', 'quadruples', or 'quintuples' over some period of time. [For some reason, I've never seen or heard this intransitive verbal structure applied to 'sextuple', 'septuple', or any number higher than 5; my dictionary also accepts it for 2-5, but not beyond.] Another way to express the same notion is with the expression, 'fold':
10d ok- The value of land in this region has increased twofold since last spring.
'Threefold', 'fourfold', 'fivefold', 'sixfold', 'sevenfold',
'eightfold"... with the 'fold' structure, there is no upper limit. This
structure is very often used with the Doan forms of 'increase', 'growth', etc.:
10d ok- Since last spring there has been a twofold increase in the value of land in this region.
So... we've examined several typical problems in which Koreans writing in English use the word, 'than', in places where it does not belong. We focused on the difference between the grammar used to express simple comparisons and the grammar used to express changes occurring over time. By way of review, see if you can supply corrected versions of the following problem sentences:
11) xxx- The amount of technical knowledge is more increased than it used to be.
11b (change over time)
12) xxx- The number of books in our library is three times than ten years ago.
12b) (change over time)
13) xxx- I admire scholars than politicians or soldiers.
Some possible answers:
11a ok- The amount of technical knowledge is greater [larger] than it used to be. / There is more technical knowledge (now) than before.
11b ok- The amount of technical knowledge has increased.
12a ok- The number of books in our library is three times greater than it was ten years ago. / There are three times as many books in our library (now) as there were ten years ago. / The size of our library's collection [The number of books in our library] is three times what it was ten years ago.
12b) ok- The number of books in our library has tripled in the last ten years. / ... has increased threefold over the past ten years. / In the last decade there has been a threefold increase in the number of books in our library.
13' ok- I admire scholars more than (I admire) politicians or scholars.