Answering grammar questions
What pronoun should you use after ‘than’?
Question: Here is a question I’ve been wondering about for years. Here is the basic sentence – and I’m going to focus on race car drivers – hope you don’t mind:
Nico Rosberg was faster than Lewis Hamilton in the last race.
That’s pretty straightforward. One could switch the names and simply add ‘slower’, and it would still make sense:
Lewis was slower than Nico.
Both proper names can function as subjects. Now let’s substitute pronouns for the two proper nouns.
Which is correct?
• He was faster than him in the last race.
• He was faster than he (was) in the last race.
If you were to write this sentence in German and substitute pronouns for the names, you would add two personal or subject pronouns: ‘Er ist schneller als er.’ You would not say, ‘er ist schneller als ‘ihm’, where ‘ihm’ is the object pronoun of ‘er’.
I would say ‘him’. but experts don’t agree on which pronoun should come after ‘than’.
‘When the personal pronoun follows except, but, than, or as, you’ve got an argument on your hands. Traditionally, these words have been regarded as conjunctions and the personal pronoun that follows has been regarded as the subject of a clause (which might not be completed). Thus “No one could be as happy as I.” (If you provide the entire mechanism of the clause — “as I [am]” — you see the justification for the subject form.) The same goes for these other conjunctions: “Whom were you expecting? who else but he?” “My father is still taller than she” [than she is].
‘Many grammarians have argued, however, that these words are often used as prepositions, not conjunctions (and have been used that way for centuries by many good writers). In a structure such as “My mother is a lot like her,” we have no trouble recognizing that “like” is acting as a preposition and we need the object form of the pronoun after it. Why, then, can’t we use “than” and “but” as prepositions in sentences such as “Dad’s a lot taller than him” and “No one in this class has done the homework but me”? Such usage is now widely regarded as acceptable in all but the most formal writing. The same argument is sometimes used for the object form after as — “The coach is not as smart as me” — but this argument does not enjoy the cogency of using the object form after but and than.’
Splitting a quotation over three glasses
Question: I want to break up a quote onto three wine glasses, but I am unsure about the rules. The full quote is, ‘Halt ein! Halt ein! O Papageno und sei klug! Man lebt nur einmal; dies sei dir genug!’
I’m thinking about going with this:
1st glass: O Papageno und sei klug!
2nd glass: Man lebt nur einmal
3rd glass: dies sei dir genug!
Should I capitalise ‘dies’ on the third glass? Would ellipses be inappropriate?
Here’s another option:
1st glass: O Papageno und sei klug!
2nd glass: Man lebt nur einmal …
3rd glass: … dies sei dir genug!
My editor had a better response than me. He said:
This must be a quote from Act Two of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute.
Translated into English, it is: ‘Stop for a moment, O Papageno, and be smart! You only live once [literally, ‘Man only lives once’]; let this be enough for you.’
Papageno is contemplating suicide and this is what the Three Spirits say to stop him. Note that there should be a comma after ‘Papageno’.
Your reader has chosen to leave out the ‘Halt ein’ from the glasses.
I think it should go like this:
O Papageno, und sei klug!
Man lebt nur einmal
Dies sei dir genug!
No full stops are necessary on glasses! And ‘Dies’ should be capitalised. Ellipses would look awkward.
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