[Source:] "More important" and "more importantly" are used as full-sentence modifiers, often in the initial position and treated parenthetically (set off with a comma). Either phrase can usually be translated as "what is more important."

More important, the armies in the east had used up all their supplies.

Many writers will use the adverb form, "importantly," thinking that the phrase modifies a verb in the main clause; usually, however, that is not the case. The phrase will almost invariably modify, adjectivally, the entire clause, and the adjective form, "important," will suffice.

1. What's wrong with the belief that this disjunct modifies a verb in the main clause ?

2. How does the phrase almost invariably modify, adjectivally, the entire clause? How can adjective modify an entire clause? Does this jar with the definition of an adjective?

Footnote: I already read this ELU answer,

2 Answers 2


There is no clean way to parse "More important, ..." strictly as written, but the intent is easy to understand.

A critical point is in the answer you reference:

...the adverbial phrase ‘more importantly’ modifies nothing in the sentence. What is wanted in constructions of this kind is ‘more important,’ an ellipsis of the phrase ‘what is more important.’

(Note that this is a subject with some disagreement, and the above quote expresses one opinion (of many) in the debate.)

If we accept that "More important, ..." is short for "What is more important is that..." then there is no issue at all: important modifies the fact expressed in the that clause.

Consider the following similar sentences:

Finding the treasure is important.

It is important that we find the treasure. (using an expletive it)

If we ask "What is important?" the answer is "that we find the treasure". (Or, "finding the treasure" in the first setence.)

You can also read "More important, ..." simply as:

This fact is more important: ...

"More importantly, ..." doesn't usually modify a verb in the main clause:

We lost the the treasure. More importantly, we lost our friends in the woods.

You didn't importantly lose your friends -- that doesn't make too much sense. Rather, you lost your friends, and that fact is more important than the fact about the treasure.


More important(ly) is not really a modifier, IMO. It is a reflexive expression of a comparison between two predications. By reflexive, I mean self-referential: "what I'm about to say is more important than what I've just said".

Don't play with matches, kiddo, you may burn your fingers. More importantly, you may burn the house down.

P.S. Here's one man's opinion on the subject of which one is "correct". Also cited in the link in the OP's question.

  • 1
    Reading the OP's source makes me think which one between Don't play with matches, kiddo, you may burn your fingers and More importantly, you may burn the house down is more well-formed in written English. (Please don't take it the wrong way. No nitpicking was intended. I'm honestly and perhaps naively wondering about that. I mean, both sentences read fine for me; however, the OP's source really made me think.) Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 3:15
  • I've added a link to one writer's opinion in my P.S.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 12:20
  • That link is great! Thanks! I think his argument is sound. Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 17:21

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