So far we have looked only at comparatives of adverbs. We
need to take a look at pronoun choice with comparisons of adjectives
as well as with adverbs. What should we say—She is older/more
intelligent than me or She is older/more intelligent than I?
What about pronouns other than I and me?
According to Quirk et al. (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English
Language, Longman, 1985), “the choice between [I] and [me]
[after than] is a well-known prescriptive issue.” They
state further that “[than I] is not a reduction of than I am but
a hypercorrect variant of ...than me.”
A search of the COBUILD Concordance and Collocations Sampler (http://titania.cobuild.collins.co.uk/form.html)
is very revealing. Overwhelmingly, the objective pronoun forms me,
him, her, them are
preferred. I did not find any instances of than plus
the subjective form (I, he, she,
or they) that are not followed by a verb (e.g. I
drove more slowly than they wanted me to). If the subjective
form is used, it is always followed by a verb or verb phrase. I
found no subjective form with ellipsis (omission) of the verb or verb
phrase in the COBUILD corpus (but see discussion of Biber et al. below).
On the other hand, countless examples appear of comparative constructions
with than me, than him, than
her, and than them, with British examples
slightly outnumbering examples of American usage. This was slightly
more the case with adjectives that formed the comparative in –er
than with adjectives that formed the comparative with more,
although there were many examples of each. Some of the –er
older/ younger / taller / shorter / better / smaller / stronger
/ worse / prouder / slower / slimmer / smarter / crazier
Examples could be:
||My sister is older than me.
She is older than I am.
||I'm slimmer than her.
||I am slimmer than she is.
Adjectives using more include
skeptical / grown-up / responsible / unmaterialistic / tired
/ conservative / adept / open (said of persons)
Examples could be:
||We can't hire Frank! He's a playboy. We need someone
much more responsible than him.
....more responsible than he is.
||I know you're tired, but you can't be more tired than
||..........more tired than I am.
Adjectivals consisting of an adverb modifying a participial adjective
better equipped / heavier-handed / better qualified
An example could be:
(i) Burt is better qualified than her for
(j) Burt is equipped than she is for the job.
In all these cases, the pronoun of choice is the objective form [as
in (a), (c), (e) (g) and (i)] when no verb follows the pronoun [as in
(b), (d), (f), (h) and (j)].
These findings are reinforced by Biber et al. (Longman Grammar of Spoken
and Written English), which states “The accusative [objective]
forms are the only ones attested in conversation, where as
and than seem to behave like prepositions rather than
conjunctions introducing elliptic degree clauses.” (Section 126.96.36.199).
(I should add that the study included not only pronoun forms after than
but also pronoun forms in as...as
constructions.) The only kind of discourse in which the subjective form
is found in the Biber corpus is fiction, where instances of the objective
form still outnumber those with the subjective form.
Quirk et al. agree that the objective form is the preferred choice.
Like Biber, they suggest that in these constructions, than,
as well as as, can be considered not a conjunction
but a preposition. This reinforces the motivation to choose the objective
pronoun when there is no following verb or verb phrase.
Except in hyperformal discourse, then, it is standard practice to choose
the objective pronoun unless the pronoun serves as the expressed subject
of a second clause.
Back to Case of pronouns after than