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I have already found in a book this rule:

The comparative structure includes the only when the comparative takes a noun position, example:

I like the smaller of the two.

May you explain me this rule and give more examples? Because I do not understand.

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jan 20 '18 at 13:12

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  • the smaller = the smaller one i.e. - the one which is smaller (than all other relevant ones). It's not syntactically necessary to explicitly specify of the two in your example. For example, Here are two slices of pie. I'll have the smaller [one], and you can have the larger. – FumbleFingers Jan 20 '18 at 13:21
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Basically, if the comparative is used as either the subject or object of the sentence, it's used as a noun - i.e. if you can remove that part of the sentence and get it by asking "Who" or "What".

In this case we have:

Q: Who/What do I like? 
A: The smaller of the two.

An example where this cannot be used:

The first book is smaller. 

If you would to remove "smaller" form the sentence and ask:

Q: Who/What is the first book?
A: Smaller.

"Who" doesn't make any sense, while "What" makes some sense but it's used in a different way. Smaller describes the book, not itself. If the answer was the smaller it would not fully answer the question, because it would just raise another - The smaller of what?. The answer needs to have meaning by itself.

Side not on this example. If there was a text before that clearly defines what the smaller is, we could use it. E.g.:

The first book is the smaller of the two. I am going to read the smaller.

Here the smaller clearly means the first book.

Hope this clarifies things a bit, articles can be tricky, you learn them mostly through exposure to the language. :)

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