Hey Grammarians, I need terms describing some comparisions and words
November 11, 2016 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Three comparison types: 1) A is old, 2) A is older than B, 3) A is x years older than B. Two words: 'old', 'older'. I'm going to post on a forum for a highly technical subject where people usually ignore the content if they can ridicule a flaw (English or subject) in the post. My post will be about the comparisons typically made on the forum.
posted by Homer42 to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
 
Do you mean "comparative" and "superlative" adjective forms?
posted by dilaudid at 5:45 PM on November 11, 2016


I wouldn't say 3 is superlative -- it's a comparative (older) with more information through the adverbial phrase "x years than B".

I forget what 1 is -- the positive? and agree that 2 is the comparative.

Also was there more to your post, or did you just want terms?
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2016


Example 1 is not a comparison. It's valid even if A is the only one in the set.
posted by w0mbat at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2016


Comparison of adjectives:
The positive degree (old)
The comparative degree (older)
The superlative degree (oldest)
The degree of difference in a comparison (x years)
The comparandum (B)
posted by mahorn at 6:17 PM on November 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


I'm going to post on a forum for a highly technical subject where people usually ignore the content if they can ridicule a flaw (English or subject) in the post. My post will be about the comparisons typically made on the forum.

I would leave these people to their comparisons, personally, it sounds like there's only one thing they're interested in comparing.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:56 PM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


>Example 1 is not a comparison. It's valid even if A is the only one in the set.

Oops. 'A is old' would be understood in the context of an A vs B discussion. Does that make it an implicit comparison?

>Also was there more to your post, or did you just want terms?
Just the terms. Once I have the core of correct grammar, I'll write the post.
posted by Homer42 at 7:24 PM on November 11, 2016


Yes, "old" is a relative term so you are implicitly comparing anything you describe as "old" to other things (real or hypothetical.) If you are talking about the other thing ("A used to be young") I'd say you are explicitly comparing them, just not in a single sentence.

People who look for excuses to ridicule things may not think this through though so I don't know if that helps.
posted by mark k at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2016


OK, so I'm an editor and I used to be a linguistics researcher and here's the terms I would use:
  • "Old" and "older" are adjectives.
  • An adjective that comes after "is" in English is a predicate adjective. (An adjective that comes before a noun is an attributive adjective. So in "The old man is friendly," "old" is attributive, but in "The man is old," it's a predicate.)
  • English adjectives come in three forms, which are sometimes called degrees: the positive, comparative, and superlative. The positive degree is the base form ("old"), the comparative is the -er form ("older"), and the superlative is the -est form ("oldest").
  • In the phrase "older than B," the "than B" part is sometimes called a comparandum and sometimes called a standard. I think comparandum is the more traditional term.
  • In the phrases "x years old" and "x years older than B," the "x years" part is a measure phrase.
  • You're right that the sentence "A is old" can be understood as an implicit comparison. The set of other things that A is implicitly compared to is called its comparison class. You can make a comparison class explicit by saying "A is old for a tree/person/cat/dog/goldfish." Otherwise the comparison class is left implicit and people pick it up from context.
Linguists are more into labeling the parts of sentences than we are in coming up with names for whole sentence types. So there isn't a standard term that refers precisely to each of the sentences you give. But you can put together descriptions for them if you need.

If I were writing about this I'd probably call your #1 a "sentence with a positive adjective predicate," your #2 a "sentence with a comparative adjective predicate," and your #3 a "sentence with a comparative adjective predicate and a measure phrase." That's kind of long-winded, though, so if I needed to talk about them a lot I'd give them nicknames: maybe "positive sentence," "comparative sentence" and "comparative-with-measure-phrase sentence."

Honestly, though, nitpickers are gonna nitpick, and bringing out all kinds of fancy grammar terminology might be a bit like waving a red flag in front of them, so :shrug:
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


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