[Source:] Comparative subordination

Examples of the comparative that do not allow an analysis in terms of coordination (because the necessary parallel structures are not present) are instances of comparative subordination. In such cases, than has the status of a preposition or a subordinator (subordinate conjunction), e.g.

c. More passengers than the airline had issued tickets [♦ to ♦ ] tried to board the plane.
d. More guests than we had chairs [♦ for ♦] showed up.

Please beware that I was the one who added the prepositions surrounded by the lozenges (♦ ). I did so because I believe that these were wrongfully missing. Were there? Why or why not?


Neither preposition is required.

c. The Indirect Object of issue can be expressed without a preposition:

The airline issued me a ticket at the curb, before I entered the terminal. The airline issues passengers tickets online and outside the terminal, but not at the terminal.

d. This need not be a comparison between the number of guests and the number for whom we had chairs; it can stand in its original state as a comparison between the number of guests and the number of chairs.

We had 34 guests and only 27 chairs. We had more guests than chairs.


c) is not OK, but d) is.

They had more guests than chairs. This is true whether or not the chairs were for those people. Normally, of course, one would assume "for" is implied. But it need not be said.

As for c), the problem is this:

there were more passengers than tickets .

Passengers > tickets

count of Noun1 > count of Noun2

But the sentence does not say that properly. Instead it says

Passengers > "the airline had issued tickets"

count of noun > (noncountable) clause

It should be

  • "More passengers than tickets the airline had issued...

By the way, this would be no problem to handle—people without tickets ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BOARD unless there are seats available AND they buy a ticket (yes, I realize it said "tried to board"). The situation that is a problem is when the airline issues more tickets than available seats!

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