I knew that 'than' can be relative pronoun in comparing sentence. but I don't know how to use it. If the sentence is

It was more expensive computer than I saw yesterday

I don't know it means

I saw more expensive computer that I saw yesterday.


I saw cheaper computer yesterday.

.... Originally, I thought like second one... but if it roles relative pronoun, it has to role like first... isn't it?

2 Answers 2


Your analysis is correct.

It was [a] more expensive computer than [the one] I saw yesterday.

means that the computer you looked at today was more expensive than the computer you saw yesterday.

"This is more than that" draws a comparison between "this" (which can be anything) and "that" (which can also be anything). "More than" means "greater than," which in your example is the cost of a computer.

In the original, "than" is used as a conjunction. From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/than

Definition of than 1 a —used as a function word to indicate the second member or the member taken as the point of departure in a comparison expressive of inequality ; used with comparative adjectives and comparative adverbs b —used as a function word to indicate difference of kind, manner, or identity ; used especially with some adjectives and adverbs that express diversity 2 : rather than —usually used only after prefer, preferable, and preferably 3 : other than 4 : when 1b —used especially after scarcely and hardly

I think you are doing just fine!

  • originally, Is 'than' relative pronoun? I just thought relative pronoun have to be related with antecedent.....
    – EricHa
    Apr 30, 2016 at 14:03
  • Not in this case, where it is used as a conjunction, or what Merriam-Webster calls a "function word." Please see if my edits in response to your comment are helpful and let me know if they are not. Apr 30, 2016 at 14:19
  • I know that it is conjunction. however, I want to know how to use it in relative pronoun. your edition explains about conjunction....
    – EricHa
    Apr 30, 2016 at 14:28
  • @EricHa That's difficult to answer, then, since than is never a relative pronoun. In the terms of traditional grammar, we can say that it's either a preposition or a conjunction depending on usage.
    – user230
    Apr 30, 2016 at 14:37
  • @snailboat oh my..... my book says it can be...... like 'as' and 'but'.
    – EricHa
    Apr 30, 2016 at 14:41

Than is never a relative pronoun. It's always a comparative 'operator', used to introduce the entity to which something is compared when a difference is asserted:

John is smarter than Bob.
I spent less than I expected.
This computer is more expensive than that one.

You are probably confused because comparisons of this sort usually involve dropping at least one term, and it is very common to drop more. Your example, for instance, has the underlying structure:

It was a more expensive computer than the computer I saw yesterday was expensive.

The piece I struck through, which repeats the term which measures the values compared, is always omitted if both entities are compared on the same scale. But other terms may be omitted if the hearer can be expected to 'recover' them from the context; in your example the speaker assumes the hearer will understand that this computer is being compared to another computer:

It was a more expensive computer than the computer I saw yesterday.

You've got to be careful, though. I'd call this omission of any term designating the entity compared to only marginally grammatical. The relative clause I saw yesterday has no evident referent, and is consequently ambiguous: it might represent more expensive . . . than I saw it to be yesterday. This is acceptable only in casual speech.

†What you call it depends on what grammatical sect you adhere to. Some sects call it a conjunction, some an adverb; I'd classify it as a preposition, but it doesn't really matter.

‡ An example of entities compared on different scales would be The Challenger Deep is deeper than Mt. Everest is high—here both scales, deep and high must be included.

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