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  1. She is older than I am.

  2. She is right more often than the others are.
    ( CGEL page 1108-1109).

The authors said the reduction in 1 is obligatory but 2 is optional (...more than others are right). What is the difference?

  • 2
    Could it be because, in #2, the word "right" is not part of the comparative phrase, and so, it could optionally show up in the comparative clause. – F.E. Aug 22 '14 at 22:02
3

SHORT ANSWER:
As F.E. comments, are right is not part of the comparative phrase, which involves the 'variable' often; so omission of are right or just right is optional.

LONGER ANSWER:
COMPer than, where COMPer is an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree (e.g. older, bigger, more desirable, more often), expresses the relation between two scalar qualities in two different situations. Syntactically, it relates two underlying clauses:

A is X. B is Y.

A and B are the situations, and the qualities which are compared are the ‘variables’ X and Y.

Two rules govern what may and may not be omitted when these are combined in the expression A is Xer than B

  1. COMPARATIVE REDUCTION
    If X and Y measure values of different qualities, both must be included.

    A is (so) tall. B is (so) wide. → A is taller than B is wide.

    But if they measure the values of the same quality, the ‘restatement’ of that quality in the second part must be omitted:

    A is (so) tall. B is (so) tall. → A is taller than B is tall.

    Consequently, in your first example, old must be omitted in the second part.

    She is old. I am old. → She is older than I am old.

  2. REPETITIVE REDUCTION
    Any terms which ‘belong’ to both situations, not to the comparisons, may be omitted in the second part by the ordinary process of ellipsis. This is neither obligatory nor prohibited but optional.

    Your second example compares two values of a single quality, often, and the restatement of that quality must, under rule 1, be omitted.

    She is right often. The others are right often. → She is right more often than the others are right often.

    But the situation in the second clause is expressed with a term which is syntactically identical to the term which describes the situation in the first clause: BE right. (The morphological difference between is and are is ‘bracketed out’.) Consequently this term may be truncated or omitted entirely in the restatement, under rule 2.

    She is right more often than the others are right.
    She is right more often than the others are.
    She is right more often than the others.

    The ellipsis is optional, so all of these are acceptable.

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