Monday, February 8, 2010

I am Better at English Than He!

Grammar warriors, help me out.

Would you teach junior high schoolers that they should be saying:

"He is taller than I." OR
"He is taller than me."

Now, I know the grammatical arguments. I know the controversy over whether "than" is a conjunction or a preposition. However, I take a more organic view to these things. Do you think it would better serve a teenager to say "I" or "me"?

I am going with "me" on this one but some other teachers disagree with me. If a junior high student would be encountering actual conversations from the vernacular, I think it would serve them better. Of course, I am teaching in Japan so all they are encountering are stilted text readings created by committees of non-native speakers. I think teachers feel more comfortable explaining the rules for "I."

I would consider teaching it this way:

"I am tall."
"He is tall."
"He is taller than I am."

This would require materials for the board to illustrate, but it would be easy to teach I think as they would already grasp "I am..." Then again:

"I am tall."
"He is tall."
"He is taller than me."

Might be a good way to teach about the object of the sentence. The counter argument being that you cant say, "He is taller than me am."

But, let's think about a 12 year old complaining:

"I'm so short. When will I grow. This sucks. Everybody is taller than I!"

Doesn't really work, does it?

Help me out.


Reading back through my Strunk and White I find the cautrionary "In general, aviod 'understood' verbs by supplying them." As usual, I defer to the masters and find them correct.

For example:

"He eats pizza more than I."
"He eats pizza more than I do."

"She lloves him more than me."
"She love him more than I do."

Better English that way, I think.


The Morholt said...

As a descriptivist rather than prescriptivist, I agree with you. Even in the hallowed halls of academe, in University English departments, I have never yet met a pedantic ass quite so pompous as to say "He is taller than I" (even though I almost invariably am.)
In short, though the rules likely support the former, and the former is easier to explain on the board, the latter is invariably the way the educated persons using standard English express themselves. Maybe it is otherwise at Oxford and Cambridge, in the byways of Leeds and the tea shoppes of merry olde London, I'm not sure. But I think not.

wwc said...

Langauges weren't made in a lab and shouldn't be a slave to rules. I know I am one to yell about incorrct English, but to the extent that it is mutualy understood and spoken, I think the frmework is maleable. Do you know anyone who says "He is much faster than I!" No. If they do they are silly. One of the characteristics of academic writing is that it sounds different than spoken English, so naturally not all of the rules will apply.

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