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I'm wondering if the second buy is natural in the following:

It is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than buy fruits and vegetables in this country.

Would it be more natural to precede the second buy with to? Or would it be even more natural to say "Soft drinks and processed foods are easier to buy than fruits and vegetables in this country"?

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We have three options:

  1. It is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than buy fruits and vegetables in this country.

  2. It is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than to buy fruits and vegetables in this country.

  3. It is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than ___ fruits and vegetables in this country.

All three sentences are grammatical and mean the same thing. (1) is a bit unnatural sounding because of the bare infinitive, but it is not wrong. I would encourage choosing between (2) and (3) in most cases.

(2) is often used if the "soft drinks and processed foods" part becomes too long, like this:

It is easier to buy soft drinks, processed foods, and other less nutritional options than to buy fruits and vegetables in this country.

In this case, the comma-separated list makes it harder for the reader to link the initial "to buy" with the subsequent "fruits and vegetables," so we repeat the infinitive to make the sentence clearer. In this construction, you will sometimes also see a comma before "than," but I'm not certain it is needed.

On the other hand, (3) is less wordy. Use it when the sentence is short enough that a reader doesn't need the "extra help" of a repeated infinitive.

As you say, we can also recast the sentence, which may be easier to read as well. This is useful if the sentence becomes so lengthy and convoluted that the parallel structure can no longer be discerned. But you can almost always recast any sentence, so it's important to focus on doing this in cases where the original is genuinely hard to understand.

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The second buy in the sentence seems redundant.
I think you can completely do away with the second buy.

It is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than fruits and vegetables in this country

sounds good to me. You could also add "in this country" in the beginning

In this country, it is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than fruits and vegetables

Both sound natural to me. The second seems slightly better.

In the alternate sentence that you mentioned,

Soft drinks and processed foods are easier to buy than fruits and vegetables in this country

in my opinion the in this country at the end very odd and out of place

In this country, soft drinks and processed foods are easier to buy than fruits and vegetables.

seems much better.


To conclude, I would either say,

In this country, it is easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than fruits and vegetables

OR

In this country, soft drinks and processed foods are easier to buy than fruits and vegetables.

Both of them seem perfect and natural.

  • Are you a native speaker? – Apollyon May 19 '18 at 14:58
  • My mother tongue is not English but I have been speaking it since childhood – coderDude May 19 '18 at 15:01
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    @TheInsaneCoder I don't see any problem with in this country at the end of the sentence. Sounds perfectly idiomatic - although I would also opt to lead with it. – Ronald Sole May 19 '18 at 15:29
  • @RonaldSole What do you think about the original sentence? Do you agree there's a problem with it? – Apollyon May 19 '18 at 15:32
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    @Apollyon I would opt to omit the second buy as redundant or to preface it with to if you include it. However, you are quite likely to hear native English speakers repeating the verb without the to, which is simply assumed. – Ronald Sole May 19 '18 at 23:35

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