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This year we were very unlucky because we played with one player less against Barcelona.

I don’t understand why “with” is used in this sentence. I thought there should be a noun after “with” but there is no a noun. I think “less” doesn’t describe “player” here. Or I wonder would it be better if I use this sentence without “with” by using “less” as an adverb.Would the meaning change?

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The preposition phrase is with one player less. It acts as a modifier of the sentence, telling the conditions we played under.

one player less is a noun phrase. It works the same as
played with five players
played with all our players

A noun or a noun phrase can be the object of a preposition. Examples of noun phrases as objects of prepositions:
on muddy ground
for all time
in each case
at every turn

"We played one player less/short." works, but to me it's harder to understand.

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  • @JackO'Elaherty I have a question. in a PP "with one player less", is word 'less' an adjective and does it modify one player?
    – bak1936
    Sep 23, 2021 at 23:02
  • I think "one" is a determiner, and "less" is an adverb that modifies it. Or, the entire phrase "one less" may be the determiner - I'm not sure. Sep 24, 2021 at 1:10

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