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[Last Para, J Blackburn's judgment:] The difference is the same as that between buying a horse believed to be sound, and buying one believed to be warranted sound; but I doubt if it was made obvious to the jury, and I doubt this the more because I do not see much evidence to justify a finding for the defendant on this latter ground if the word “old” was not used. There may have been more evidence than is stated in the case; and the demeanour of the witnesses may have strengthened the impression produced by the evidence there was; but it does not seem a very satisfactory verdict if it proceeded on this latter ground. I agree, therefore, in the result that there should be a new trial.

Why not simply more? I guess that it modifies the bolded doubt. Please explain this? Is it an adverb?

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Meaning

The - (adverb) used before comparative adjectives or adverbs for emphasis.

Example -

She looks the happier for her trip.

In your sentence - ...I doubt this the more... - more is a comparative adverb. And that the before more, is used to give an emphasis.

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The here is an adverb. According to the definition at Merriam-Webster,

(2.1) THE - adverb.
"than before : than otherwise". Used before a comparative:
none the wiser for attending
(2.2)
a : "to what extent"
the sooner the better
b : "to that extent"
the sooner the better

According to the definition at Wiktionary:

(2.2) THE: adverb.
With a comparative, and often with for it, indicates a result more like said comparative. This can be negated with none.
It was a difficult time, but I’m the wiser for it.
It was a difficult time, and I’m none the wiser for it.
I'm much the wiser for having had a difficult time like that.

The modifies the adverb more and they together form an adverbial modifier that modifies the verb doubt.

According to Wiktionary, the etymology is as follows:

From Middle English, from Old English þȳ (“by that, after that, whereby”), originally the instrumental case of the demonstratives (masculine) and þæt (neuter).

Imagine that þȳ has survived in the Modern English:

John: It was me who extinguished this fire. The rain has nothing to do with this.
Paul: I doubt this.
John: Yes! I extinguished it þȳ blacke hose! (with that black hose; points at the hose)
Paul: I doubt this þȳ more! (I doubt this [to that extent] more; see Merriam-Webster's def. 2.2; the extent of his doubt has increased "by that amount" due to John's lie - by some unmeasurable amount that corresponds with Paul's astonishment at John's lie)
John: Why?
Paul: The hose is not connected to water supply!

Here, þȳ is used to enhance the meaning and is roughly synonymous with even.


This use of the as adverb occurs in comparative constructions, where the modifies some comparative word like "more, less" etc. In some such constructions, we can drop the:

Her mood wasn't any (the) less bright for her loneliness.

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It is an ancient relic: the instrumental case is preserved in the comparative/superlative.

  • 2
    Agree. Modern version might easily be "I doubt this even more..." – Tetsujin Nov 9 '14 at 10:56
  • Minor point, but salient. Do you consider he used 'the' for emphasis, or was it simply the correct form for its time? – Tetsujin Nov 9 '14 at 10:59
  • Hard to say. One would have to know a lot more about 19th century books on usage than I do in order to determine whether "the more" was perceived at the time as being supplanted (and there was an effort to preserve its use). But 'the more' has long been in natural use with the comparative. As you mentioned above, nowadays it is rarer, and is replaced with 'even', though we do still hear "all the more". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 9 '14 at 11:06
  • ah, indeed - & 'never the less', one of those odd ones that survived by being concatenated, like nonetheless, notwithstanding, howbeit, etc – Tetsujin Nov 9 '14 at 11:11
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    See "the more, the merrier" here: projects.iq.harvard.edu/cb45/pages/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 8 '15 at 23:16

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