As and Than To Introduce Elliptical Clauses

By Maeve Maddox

A reader questions my use of the subject pronoun I to follow the conjunction as in a recent post. I wrote “not so sanguine as I.” The reader suggests that I should have written “not so sanguine as me.”

When the word as functions as a preposition, it can be followed by me:

I went to the costume party as my sister, and she went as me.

In the sentence with sanguine, however, as functions as a conjunction. The subject form I is the correct choice because I is the subject of the elliptical clause introduced by as.

An “elliptical clause” has some of its parts understood but not stated.

Sometimes the part left out of the elliptical clause is the verb and its complement:

You are smarter than I.
Expanded meaning: You are smarter than I am smart.

George has been teaching June how to golf. Now she is as good as he.
Expanded meaning: Now she is as good as he is good.

Sometimes the understood part of the clause includes an extension of the verb that contains a prepositional phrase. When that’s the case, an object form may be the correct choice to follow as or than. The choice depends upon the meaning to be understood.

These examples from The Chicago Manual of Style illustrate the way pronoun choice alters meaning when than introduces an elliptical clause:

My sister looks more like my father than I.
Expanded meaning: My sister looks more like my father than I look like my father.

My sister looks more like my father than me.
Expanded meaning: My sister looks more like my father than she looks like me.

When as and than are used to introduce an elliptical clause, the choice of pronoun form is governed by its function in what is understood but not stated in the elliptical clause.

Related post: Taller Than He

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