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When I was solving English tests, I came across this question.

Of the two athletes, Ronald has been ..... in winning cups than Kane

a) more successful b) successful c) the more successful d) the most successful

Undoubtedly, my choice was A(more successful). Because it is a well-known rule in comparative sentences. But I wonder when I saw an answer. The answer was C (the more successful). Can anybody explain to me the reason for this? Can we use the more with the comparative sentence?

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  • @EdwinAshworth in what cases we should use "the more" instead of "more"?
    – iMb
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 12:19
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    I'm sorry; the correct version is (a) here, not (c). Without the 'than X', either ' ... more [successful in winning cups]' or '... the more ...' is fine. Using 'the more' is arguably better standalone ('Of the two athletes, Ronald has been the more successful'). It's more formal where there's a choice. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:26
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    I think you are mistaken. It would be Ronaldo, not Ronald.
    – David
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 18:11
  • @EdwinAshworth Thank you, I got it
    – iMb
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 6:15
  • You are right@iMb. A) is indeed the correct choice. See my answer for the reasons.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 13:08

3 Answers 3

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All of these work:

  • Of the two athletes, Ronald has been more successful than Kane.
  • Of the two, Ronald has been a more successful athlete than Kane.
  • Of the two athletes, Ronald has been the more successful [one].
  • Of the two, Ronald has been the more successful athlete.

In this structure, “the more” seems to function as a superlative (like “the most” if there were three or more), which can’t be followed by “than”, whereas “more” and “a more” are normal comparatives like you’d expect.

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You can:

  1. Of the two athletes, Ronald has been {more successful} in winning cups than Kane. - More is an adverb modifying the adjective "successful"

Of the two athletes, Ronald has been {the more successful} in winning cups than Kane - successful is an adjective acting as a noun = successful person/sportsman

"The first round will eliminate 50% of the contestants. The successful (uncountable = those who are successful) will progress to round two."

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  • How can I decide when to use more and when the more in such tests? I mean are there any rules when to use the more and when without the?
    – iMb
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 12:15
  • The guidance is: (i) the + more + noun (the modifies 'noun'); (ii) more + adjective (there is no noun.)
    – user81561
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:59
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    Don't use the more. It's just a slightly more formal and more precise usage, referring here to the original definite NP the two athletes by echoing the. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 16:14
  • There are only a few cases when "the more" is usable and they all relate to a comparison between two people or things. For instance you could say "of the two pictures the Van Gough is the more valuable" but you would have to say "of the collection of 50 pictures the Van Gough is the most valuable"
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 18:12
  • @BoldBen Thank you. Your explanation is very clear
    – iMb
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 6:14
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Of the two athletes, Ronald has been ..... in winning cups than Kane.

I agree with you, iMb.

I don't know why the answer says that c) the more successful is correct, since "the" is excluded if the secondary term is expressed, as it is in your example, i.e. than Kane.

b) successful is not possible because the comparative term "more" is required, and d) contains most which is not a possible comparative governor.

That leaves only a) more successful, which would be my choice.

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