In a dictionary, I happen to stumble upon a phrase:

bacteria magnified to 1000 times their actual size

I think “than” was omitted from the phrase, but I'm not sure. I want to know the structure of the phrase as well.

First, I have assumed that NP (or DP) is analyzed in PP like the followings.

[to [1000 times their actual size]NP(or DP)]PP

[1000 times(quantifier) their(determiner) actual(adjective) size(noun)] NP(or DP)

The preposition to means as far as something.

Am I right?

Second, I try to put than in the phrase:

[bacteria [magnified to 1 000 times]AP]NP [than their actual size]PP.

Here is the meaning of than:

Than is used as a function word to indicate difference of kind, manner, or identity, which is used especially with some adjectives and adverbs that express diversity.

E.g. anywhere else than at home

Which one is right? In addition, which test is there in syntax for those for whether or not those are correct?


3 Answers 3


"1000 times" doesn't need an extra than.

than is use for comparison on what's on the left and what's on the right.

"1000 times" already mentions the difference. "times" is a noun, therefore "than" is a conjunction. So "than" is not needed here.

Some example of using "than" would be:

bacteria zoomed in 1 000 times bigger than their actual size

You would need "bigger". "than" requires a comparative adjective before it, and "bigger" is one of the most often used comparative adjectives.

  • I have a question. you said than is a conjunction. Then, How do I understand the structure of [bigger than their actual size]. This pattern shows adjective and noun phrase in the preposition phrase. Can I get an evidence that the pattern is right?
    – bak1936
    May 17, 2022 at 10:21
  • @bak1936 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. May 18, 2022 at 2:42
  • Oh my mistake. How did it happen? Sorry. I mean *This pattern shows adjective than noun phrase"
    – bak1936
    May 18, 2022 at 3:10
  • @bak1936 Tbh, 1000 times without "than" is good enough. May 18, 2022 at 4:20
  • 1
    @bak1936 As the answer states, you only need "than" with a comparative adjective, like "bigger". "1000 times" is not a comparative adjective
    – gotube
    May 23, 2022 at 5:49

The sentence you found in the dictionary is correct, the sentence you gave is wrong.

1000 times is neither an adjective nor an adverb but a noun, and does not modify anything. The "than" is used as a conjuction here.

No, "than" should not be inside the sentence. If you want to use "than", it should be

bacteria is magnified 1000 times bigger than its actual size

When using "than", you need to have a word with "er" as an adverb or adjective. As what @U12-forward has mentioned, this "bigger" is a comparative adjective, which is a must when using "than".

Comparative adjectives are used to compare differences between the two objects they modify (larger, smaller, faster, higher). They are used in sentences where two nouns are compared, in this pattern: Noun (subject) + verb + comparative adjective + than + noun (object).

From here

So it follows the following:

Bacteria (subject) + magnified (verb) + bigger than (comparative adjective) + actual size (object)


"Bacteria magnified to 1000 times their actual size."

This sentence is grammatically correct.

We can rewrite the sentence in the following way without any change in meaning :

Bacteria magnified to 1000 times as big as their actual size.

However, we can rewrite the sentence using bigger than with a slight difference in meaning :

Bacteria magnified to 1000 times bigger than their actual size.

Now, let me explain the difference in meaning by giving a simple example :-

(A) [400 = 100 + 100*3]: "400 is three times bigger than 100."

(B) [300 = 100*3] : "300 is three times as big as 100." OR "300 is three times 100."

  • I have read something like the (A) somewhere in English Language Learner. But I have't found out "than" is "and" or "plus", so I'm not sure. Even though "than" is changed into "and", the changed (A) doesn't make any sense to me.
    – bak1936
    May 20, 2022 at 4:18
  • 2
    I have explained it as clearly as possible. But maybe you don't know what you want. May 20, 2022 at 9:52
  • 1
    Personally, I think ELL SE should abolish bounties. Their utility is doubtful, in my opinion. May 21, 2022 at 23:22

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