7. the better to ——   =   So as to —— better:

This comment revealed this grammatical confusion of mine.

1. On the left-hand side (abbreviated as LHS) above, 'the better' is a noun.

2. Yet on the right-hand side, 'better' is an adverb, modifying the infinitive 'to ——' ? This contradicts 1?
3. Also, 'so as to' just seems to have adventitiously appeared, since it's absent on the LHS?

So how can these two phrases be equal?

  • Is "the better" on the LHS really a noun? It seems more like the comparative in "the more, the better"…
    – n.st
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 23:16
  • ell.stackexchange.com/questions/38977/…
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 14:56
  • Little Red Riding Hood might shed some light on what you're asking. TRomano's point might be the deepest explanation.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 2:38
  • "So how can these two phrases be equal?" Because native speakers of English accept them as being equal.
    – Sydney
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 3:09

1 Answer 1


Well, the better on the LHS is not a noun. It's an adverbial phrase.

The better to eat you with, for example, is not a complete sentence. It has no subject.

  • 1
    And the "so as to..." simply clarifies that this is adverbial (it means "in a manner that...") Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 2:20
  • 1
    Actually, it's debatable whether "All the better to eat you with" is a complete sentence. It's like "Off with his head!" This kind of thing throws linguists and grammarians into a tizzy, but not native speakers. One can argue that it lacks a subject, or lacks a verb, or whatever. But those are only arguments based on theories about the language, which could easily be wrong, or these very sentence forms could be exceptions.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 2:31
  • How old are you? Answer: Eighteen. - The question whether "eighteen" is a sentence does not make much sense. It is a complete answer and it is self-evident that this is a shortening of "I am eighteen". But in answers the shortest answer is preferred as speaking is articulation work. - So when Little Red Riding Hood says: " Grandmother, what big teeth you have " the Wolf does not answer: "I have big teeth all the better to eat you with" but only "(all) the better to eat you with". - By the way, this "the2" is not identical with the normal article "the". (See etymonline the).
    – rogermue
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 5:29

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