Taller Than He
A reader questions the use of “than him” in the following statement:
From 1970 on, his secretary Marie-José Gros-Dubois, twenty years younger than him, was faithfully near his side.
Asks the reader,
Is this correct?—or should it say “twenty years younger than he”?
Whether “than him” is correct or not depends upon whether than is seen as a preposition or a conjunction.
Since I cannot think of than as anything but a conjunction, the use of “than him” in this sentence strikes me as non-standard.
The OED has listings for than as a demonstrative pronoun and as a conjunction, but not as a preposition. However, it does include a note about the use of than as a preposition and states that this use “is now considered incorrect.”
Merriam-Webster, however, defends the use of than as a preposition.
[than as a preposition is] used by speakers on all educational levels and by many reputable writers with the objective case form of the following pronoun when the first term in the comparison is the subject of a verb or the predicative complement after a copulative verb though disapproved by some grammarians except in the phrase than whom
Bottom line: If you’re writing for a British audience, don’t ever write “than him.” If you’re writing for an American audience, think twice about it. Written English is more conservative than spoken English. Speakers who think nothing of saying “She’s taller than me” in conversation may still cringe to see it in print.
Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!
Keep learning! Browse the Grammar category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!