8

When I wrote:

"The more information you have, the less you feel uneasy."

I was advised to use:

"The more information you have, the less uneasy you feel."

I would like to know which is the correct position of "uneasy." To me both are okay.

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    Good answers below. By separating less from uneasy, the first sounds like less goes with the verb, and reads more like "the less <likely you are to> feel uneasy" (or "less often", depending on context). The second definitely describes the degree of uneasiness, and can even have a sense that you might start out very uneasy, and as you gain knowledge, your uneasiness decreases. – AdamV Nov 7 '14 at 14:24
  • From a grammatical standpoint both are good. Parallel construction and similar conventions fall under stylistics and not under grammar. – Mr. Mascaro Nov 7 '14 at 21:38
15

This principle is called parallel construction:

The [more/less] X you Y

The more information you have

The less uneasy you feel

Sentences with two clauses work better, and sound more natural, if they are of parallel construction than if they are of asymmetric construction.

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  • Bull's eye! +1 The more... the.... construction should be parallel construction no matter what syntax it follows. – Maulik V Nov 7 '14 at 4:51
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    I'm a bit curious. Not that I disagree with your answer or anything ('cause "The more information you have, the less uneasy you feel" sounds more natural to my ear, too), but sometimes I wonder what exactly makes parallelism. It seems to be easy to make out the parallel construction in simpler ones, but in some cases, it seems to be a bit more complicated; for example, "But the more information you have and the more you transform that into what we call knowledge, the more likely you are to be successful."--which I don't want to rephrase to "the more likely to be successful you are". – Damkerng T. Nov 7 '14 at 6:59
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    I think the key here is that if the two pieces are symmetric (parallel construction), that's the ideal case. If the two pieces are completely asymmetric (as in your example), that's not quite as good but it's ok. The bad case is when the two pieces are mostly but not quite symmetric; this shows contrast with how things could be, and seems wrong. – Jason S Nov 7 '14 at 13:28
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    @DamkerngT. "the more successful you are likely to be" is the construction you were probably looking for. Also, your example has three clauses, the first and second of which do not agree. It is impossible to make the third one agree. – Rainbolt Nov 7 '14 at 19:58
5

In your sentence, less qualifies the adjective uneasy, so putting these two words next to each other does make good sense. There is also a nice symmetry between the structures of the two clauses: more information and less uneasy.

However, there is another pattern where there appears to be no noun or adjective:

The more you think the less you feel.

which may have led you to say the less you feel uneasy. However this pattern is best understood as

The more [stuff] you think the less [stuff] you feel.

so again more and less are qualifying nouns.

That said, what you originally wrote is 100% understandable, and would pass unnoticed in ordinary conversation.

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"less"/"more" can qualify an adjective like "uneasy" or a quantifiable noun or "information". However, it's not possible to use it with a verb construction such as "feeling uneasy". Here, "(to) feel" gives the term its meaning, and actions cannot as such be quantified or qualified. They happen, or they don't.

So

The less uneasy you feel

is correct because "less" can actually have an influence on the adjective "uneasy".

The less you feel uneasy

is not grammatically correct, but as a colloquialism, it implies that you can quantify the act of feeling. My guess would be, by regarding it as equal with the feeling itself. It is understandable, but it leaves this tiny notion that something is not quite right here. Too tiny to make it an issue in a normal conversation ... ;) That's just how colloquialisms work, I guess.

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"The more information you have, the less you feel uneasy". I think the PO should accept his friend's advice. I'll not say that his sentence doesn't make sense, but it doesn't even seem correct grammatically. We can not say "Less I feel uneasy instead of I feel less uneasy". It's unjust to divorce less from uneasy.

Actually, we use such phrases when we want to refer to an event or action that happens continuously or repeatedly, with a particular result at the same time. When we use such expressions, we must see to it that the word forms should be parallel in each of the expression.

So the correct sentence is "The more information you have, the less uneasy you feel".

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    I think the O.P.'s friend gave good advice for improvement, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that the O.P.'s initial wording was "grammatically incorrect." – J.R. Nov 7 '14 at 8:44
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Your original sentence can definitely be improved. Whether the suggested improvement is optimal depends on what you are trying to say.

It is usually best to put modifiers as close as possible to the words they modify. This reduces the odds of misunderstandings about which modifiers go with which words.

"[T]he less you feel uneasy" in your original sentence leaves some ambiguity as to whether you refer to a lessening of the intensity of each instance of uneasiness, or if there's an implied word (such as "often") missing right after "less" meaning that the frequency of your bouts of uneasiness will be reduced, but the intensity of them is unchanged.

Closing the gap can be done either by rearranging the words as suggested, or by including the implied word. Which one to choose depends on which meaning you originally intended.

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"The more information you have, the less you feel uneasy." -> for what it's worth, this would be considered 100% incorrect where I come from and to me it sounds very awkward.

There are lots of references to "parallelism" in the answers above but this is a specific form called (amongst other things) the comparative correlative - link.

I'd recommend you stick with the second form, especially if you use English in a formal business setting i.e. "The more information you have, the less uneasy you feel."

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