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You're taller than described.

I think 'be' is omitted between 'than' and 'described', right?

If so, what's the correct form of 'be'?

a. You're taller than are described.

b. You're taller than is described.

And why?

  • Why do you think that the option with are could possibly be used? – CowperKettle Feb 20 at 6:14
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    @CowperKettle I didn't say it could possibly or should be are. Why do YOU think that the option with are could NOT possibly be used? – listeneva Feb 20 at 6:51
  • It's you who are studying the language, not me, so I wanted to understand your thinking and see whether you expended any effort at investigating the issue. – CowperKettle Feb 20 at 7:45
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    @CowperKettle If the omitted subject is 'you' I don't see why 'are' is not possible. BTW, even grammarians "are studying the language". – listeneva Feb 20 at 8:03
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In a comment under the question, you said:

If the omitted subject is 'you' I don't see why 'are' is not possible.

The verb for of to be would be are if it followed the subject you. Except that it doesn't. In this case, the verb described (barring further context that isn't known from the sentence alone) doesn't have an explicit subject.

We can't assign the act of description to anybody (singular or plural) because the sentence doesn't say who is describing the thing, either directly or indirectly. Because there is no explicit subject, the subject becomes the dummy subject it. In other words:

It is described that you are a certain height.


While the to be has been omitted from the original sentence, so has this subject. In other words:

You're taller than described.
→ You're taller than is described.
→ You're taller than it is described.


There is a way in which you could use you are, but it would require a longer form of sentence:

You're taller than you are described (as being / to be).

But we can't omit the second you without it sounding unnatural—because the assumption (from normal speech) is that the shorter version is a short form of the dummy subject form of sentence. (And it are would be wrong.)


It's also possible to remove the dummy it altogether by changing the verb to a noun:

You're taller than your description.


However, if we knew from context that it was you who had provided the description, then the sentence would not use the dummy it—but it would still be different than you suggest.

It would be something like one of the following:

You're taller than you described.
You're taller than you had described.
You're taller than you describe.
You're taller than you have been describing.

In all of these cases, the repetition of you is necessary in order to distinguish it from the dummy subject version.

  • Are you suggesting You're taller than it is described is possible English?? Regarding my comment about the omitted subject possibly being 'you', I meant that 'you' could be the subject of the passive construction, because 'described' in the original sentence has to be the past participle form of the verb. For example, I was thinking something alone the lines of You're taller than you are described to be. – listeneva Feb 20 at 15:51
  • Yes. You're taller than it is described is fine. Normally it's shortened, but the longer version is what it actually stands for. (I've also updated my answer to account for what you had been thinking.) – Jason Bassford Feb 20 at 15:53
  • But don't you need the that-clause at the end, if you're to add 'it' there? For example, shouldn't it be something like You're taller than it is described that you are? – listeneva Feb 20 at 16:25
  • @listeneva No, it's not needed. Like many examples of ellipsis, the final part is optional. – Jason Bassford Feb 20 at 17:18
  • Is this different from He worries more than (it) is necessary? Here, I think 'it' is also a dummy subject, and a grammar book (Practical English Usage) says you have to omit it. – listeneva Feb 21 at 0:42

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