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What does the following sentence mean? Is it grammatically correct?

He was more understanding of her than of any of the others.

  • It is grammatical. What part of the sentence troubles you? – Kris Jun 2 '14 at 9:01
  • I mean can I say I am understanding of you ? – rahul Jun 2 '14 at 9:52
  • @rahul: yes, you can - here, understanding is an adjective, describing the subject as having and/or displaying that they understand something or someone. – oerkelens Jun 2 '14 at 11:31
  • Hi @oerkelens it would be so nice of you if you could explain me how understanding is used as an adjective in the sentence. – rahul Jun 2 '14 at 12:08
  • He is understanding. You can parse it in the same way as "The ball is blue". Understanding is used as an adjective in the same way blue is used as an adjective. – oerkelens Jun 2 '14 at 12:22
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He was more understanding of her than of any of the others.

The sentence is grammatical, and means that he showed understanding of her, but there are other people involved as well, and he does not show as much understanding of them.

Some confusion may arise because in the second part of the sentence, a part is left out - consider the "full" form:

He was more understanding of her than he was understanding of any of the others.

The sentence structure is comparable to the structure of this sentence:

I received more letters from John than I received from any of my other friends.

In the same way as in your original sentence, I can leave out the repeated part:

I received more letters from John than from any of my other friends.


As to the ambiguity mentioned in the comments, I think that would be there if your sentence would have left out more than just the repeated verb: you can also leave out the repeated preposition:

He was more understanding of her than any of the others.

In this case, it can also mean that the others were less understanding of her. In the same way I can also give my example sentence a double meaning:

I received more letters from John than any of my friends.

Now, I may have received more letters than my friends received from John.

  • Also, you failed to note the ambiguity inherent in the sentence: was he more understanding of her than he was of the others; or was he more understanding of her than the others were? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 2 '14 at 8:38
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    @JanusBahsJacquet: That ambiguity I did not mention, as it is not there. If the second of would have been omitted, I agree the sentence would be ambiguous. – oerkelens Jun 2 '14 at 8:40
  • Oops, you're right—I'd read right over the second of, didn't register at all. Never mind, then! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 2 '14 at 8:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: I think this ambiguity does play up in similar sentences, so I added it to my answer as well :) – oerkelens Jun 2 '14 at 8:45
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    @Kris: Everybody agrees that there is no ambiguity, there is no need to keep repeating it. However, the preposition is often elided in sentences like this, so your statement is simply false. I agree that it might not be best practice - but it does happen, and it happens often. – oerkelens Jun 2 '14 at 9:29

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