How about a plain yes or no

Rosie Right

A reader has sent Rosie a clipping in which the following sentence appeared:

"George Bush implicitly says he does not fear a running-mate more experienced and accomplished than he." The reader asks if he in the nominative case is correct.

The short answer is yes. But, as usual, there is more to it than that. Webster's Dictionary of English Usage gives us three-and-a-half columns about this. It all hinges on whether or not than is considered a preposition or a conjunction.

After giving us examples of both usages,

"And, though by Heaven's severe Decree

She suffers hourly more than me … " — Jonathan Swift


"…so you are no better off than I" — Emily Dickinson

Webster's summarizes;"Than is

both a preposition and a conjunction. In spite of much opinion to the contrary, the preposition has never been wrong . ...You have the same choice Shakespeare did — you can use than either way. …"

This is all very well, but for simplicity Rosie prefers Frederick Crews' entry in the Random House Handbook (1977):

"A pro. Following than or as can be either subjective or objective in case, depending on the meaning. Supply any missing parts of the clause to

He is stronger than I [am]

He is as tall as they [are]

Since the 'right' choices often sound strained, however, you may prefer to include the missing sentence elements:

He is stronger than I am."

Even Fowler's (1996) is simpler than Webster's :

"than as conjunction and preposition. In the type Diana has better manners than I, than is a conjunction, implying the ellipsis of have after I. By contrast, in the type Diana has better manners than me, than is a preposition followed by the objective for me. The second type is much less formal than the first.

I believe our reader, when he or she reads this column, will be sorry he or she (they?) ever asked the question.

Watch the words you use!

From New York Times Gail Collins' July 28 column, "While You Were Sleeping":

"June 18 - The Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, tells a TV interviewer that 'the House deserves a lot of credit for passing a bill overwhelmingly, bipartisanly, to eliminate the death penalty. We're going to bring that up in the Senate.' Further questioning reveals that the death penalty he has in mind is the estate tax."

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825), letter (1118 W. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23220), fax (355-9089) or e-mail rmail@richmond.infi.net.



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