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The average age is higher than it has been in recorded history.

Can you tell me why "than it has been" doesn't have a complement in the sentence above?

  • Why did you down-vote my answer? – BillJ Apr 8 at 9:25
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The average age is higher than [it has been in recorded history].

The reason is that the bracketed element is a comparative clause, and such clauses are obligatorily reduced in certain ways relative to the structure of main clauses.

Here, there is an obligatorily missing complement of "been", which is understood as "high". The implicit presence of the complement makes it impossible to add an overt one: * The average age is higher than it has been high in recorded history is clearly ungrammatical.

The meaning can be given as "The average age is x; it has been y in recorded history; x > y ".

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