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Consider:

Although humans have highly developed brains, most animals have more acute senses than them.

A test book says that "than them" is incorrect, but I can't understand why it's incorect and what is the correct way to say it

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    It is superfluous, unnecessary. and ugly. Aug 23 '20 at 13:54
  • @MichaelHarvey but is it grammatically correct? the test is about grammar
    – Ahmad
    Aug 23 '20 at 13:55
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    It is not grammatically incorrect, but it is poor style. Although my father calls himself an athlete, most young boys can run faster than him. What work do the last two words do in the sentence? Aug 23 '20 at 13:57
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    @Ahmad Pronouns can refer back to anything. Grammatically speaking, they can even refer to nothing at all, producing a grammatical sentence that cannot be understood. In this case, it seems clear to me what they is referring to. Some kind of rule that a pronoun can only refer to the most recently used noun is not accurate. Personally, I find nothing unusual or poorly written about the example sentence. So, I already disagree with the other comment here about the style. But that's because it's subjective. All of that aside, it's grammatical. Aug 23 '20 at 14:13
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    What does the test book say is correct? Aug 23 '20 at 15:18
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There are two very different reasons that “them” could be incorrect.

The first is that “them” is an object pronoun, and we need here is a subject pronoun to go with the implied verb:

  • Although humans have highly developed brains, most animals have more acute senses than they [do].

However, in practice this rule is so widely violated that it may sound odd when someone actually gets it right!

The second is that the author is presumably human, so referring to humans (a group he is a member of) in the third person is also odd. First person is more correct:

  • Although humans have highly developed brains, most animals have more acute senses than us.

Combine these two issues and we see the technically correct answer is:

  • Although humans have highly developed brains, most animals have more acute senses than we [do].
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  • Why is 'than we do' needed? Aug 23 '20 at 15:25
  • @MichaelHarvey “than us” is more common in practice, but “than we” is more correct due to the implied “do”. See the first point.
    – StephenS
    Aug 23 '20 at 15:27
  • I was asking "Why bother with the last part though?". What's wrong with "Although humans have highly developed brains, most animals have more acute senses."? Aug 23 '20 at 15:37
  • @MichaelHarvey You could leave off “than X” entirely, but i don’t think that’s what the OP was asking.
    – StephenS
    Aug 23 '20 at 15:49
  • The OP was asking why a sentence ending "than X" was given a poor mark. Aug 23 '20 at 17:58

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