The title is an answer in this forum repackaged as a question. Is it always so clear? Consider the statement “There were more intelligent physicists than Albert Einstein.” Some physicists were even smarter than Einstein; or Einstein was not the only intelligent physicist”, seem to me both grammatically valid paraphrases but not semantically equivalent. Of course, the original could be made unambiguous by putting the word alone at the end or the word even before more, and unambiguous English is always better than ambiguous English.

  • 1
    You seem to know the answer to the title, so what is your question? Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 23:25
  • I think "more" in "more intelligent physicists" is classed as an adverb. Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 5:03
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    Hello Okhariatane, and welcome to ELL! On this site, we don't accept questions about basic word meanings that can be found in dictionaries. For instance, if you check Merriam-Webster among the adverb definitions, you'll see an example that should answer your question
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 6:27
  • @gotube This question is about potential ambiguity, not about basic meanings. Though I don't think there is really an ambiguity here, I could see how some speakers might perceive it.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 13:45
  • @TimR The question about the ambiguity -- whether the "more" in "more interesting" can modify "interesting" is resolved in a dictionary look-up. If it doesn't resolve that, then the dictionary look-up should be in the question, and OP should say why it doesn't resolve their uncertainty.
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 4:49

3 Answers 3


There were more intelligent physicists than Albert Einstein __.

"More" is here an adverb of degree modifying the adjective "intelligent". It's a marker of the comparative grade.

As TimR says, this is a comparative construction where "than" is a preposition whose complement is the noun "Albert Einstein", a verbless clause reduced to just a single element.

If we fill out the gap, the result is ungrammatical:

*There were more intelligent physicists than Albert Einstein was an intelligent physicist.


There are more intelligent movies than Sharknado.

This construction does not imply that Sharknado is an intelligent movie, and more doesn't mean "additional" there. It cannot be paraphrased as "Sharknado is not the only intelligent movie." more ... than is a comparative construction: There are movies more intelligent than Sharknado.

There are more intelligent movies besides Sharknado.

That statement does state that Sharknado is an intelligent movie, and it could be paraphrased as "Sharknado is not the only intelligent movie."


Thank you for the informative responses. I think the ambiguity I was trying to study is of one of association. Written English doesn't seem to have a way to express the distinction between more (intelligent physicists) and (more intelligent) physicists. In the first case, I could have invented a new word for intelligent physicist (physicomensch?) as apposed to the other kind. If so, more is a noun followed by an implied partitive genitive physicomenschoj. In the second it is an adverb modifying the adjective intelligent, and the pair modifies physicist. In speech, we could resolve the ambiguity by stress.

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    You need to put this comment under the question. You can delete this one and repost it above. I realize you are new and may not know that. :) The only parse is: more intelligent/physicists. It is a comparative: more intelligent than x.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:43

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