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I came across this sentence in my English textbook :

They seem to vary in brain dominance more than do right handers.

But I think a more grammatically correct sentence would be:

They seem to vary in brain dominance more than right handers do.

Can someone explain the difference between the two and why the first sentence is grammatically correct?

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  • It's grammatically fine.The point of inversion in comparative clauses is to place a comparative expression in end position where it tends to receive greater phonological prominence. – BillJ Dec 4 '20 at 8:45
  • @BillJ Is there any grammatical rules to when you can invert in these clauses or is the use of inversion in comparative clauses fine always? For example, you sound smarter than do I. – Stranger Dec 4 '20 at 8:54
  • No grammatical rule, but a semantic reason in that a postposed element tends to receive greater attention. – BillJ Dec 4 '20 at 9:11
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The difference is purely style but your suggested option is far more common.

The second option "more than right handers do" is the only one you are likely in everyday speech. It is safer to stick to this option for all usages as the other option can sound very strange in some cases.

The first option "more than do right handers" sounds very formal. I would only find it natural when said by posher people or in formal or academic text. It accounts to a very very small percentage of the usage I remember hearing or reading. If in doubt, avoid this usage.

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  • And what about the phonological prominence given to the postposed element? – BillJ Dec 4 '20 at 8:53
  • I don't think the word prominence is affected very much. It certainly isn't affected enough to warrant using this order in everyday speech when you would normally use the more common order. – ededededed87 Dec 4 '20 at 9:02
  • But that's the main reason for postposing it, and thus the answer to the OP's question. – BillJ Dec 4 '20 at 9:09
  • Personally, I don't think that's a good reason to alter the order as I don't think it's makes much or any difference. – ededededed87 Dec 4 '20 at 9:16
  • Is there any reason to think that the RIGHT syllable (for I assume that is the syllable in question) receives more prominence with do-inversion, or that this is the reason for the inversion? My preferred explanation would be that inversion is simply a stylistically available option in these clauses. Note 'more than do right-handers' forms a rhythmically satisfying pair of dactyls (/ x x / x x). – legatrix Dec 4 '20 at 12:44

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