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  1. #1
    ohmyrichard is offline Member
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    Default than exist or than exists?

    Hi, everyone.
    Today my fellow teachers asked me which of the four options is the correct one for the blank in the following multiple choice question:
    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than ________ in traditional media.
    A. exist B. exists C. existing D. to exist
    I chose A and my reason is that "than exist in traditional media" in this case means "than those which exist in traditional media" or "than the restrictions we have in traditional media", but I'm not so sure of it. I would like you to help me with it.
    I have come across the same kind of sentence before and have taken notes of them. I have got one taken from the Oxford dictionary, p. 284, which goes like this:
    Circumlocation means using more words than are necessary, instead of speaking or writing in a clear, direct way.
    There's another example sentence taken from a book on English writing by a Chinese professor of linguistics:
    You can make your definitions reasonably complete by using as many techniques of defining as are necessary.
    A famous Chinese professor named Chuangui Ge (葛传椝),who passed away in 1992, points out in his The Writing of English (It is an English book intended for Chinese learners of English) that "that which" might be supplied after "than"/ "as" in each sentence above.
    Please tell me, how do you native speakers interpret such than-/ as- structures? Most importantly, how do you decide whether the finite verb following "than" or "as" in such sentences is in its third person singular form or in its third person plural form?
    Thanks.
    Richard

  2. #2
    svartnik is offline Banned
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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    Quote Originally Posted by ohmyrichard View Post
    Hi, everyone.
    Today my fellow teachers asked me which of the four options is the correct one for the blank in the following multiple choice question:
    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than ________ in traditional media.
    A. exist B. exists C. existing D. to exist
    I chose A and my reason is that "than exist in traditional media" in this case means "than those which exist in traditional media" or "than the restrictions we have in traditional media", but I'm not so sure of it. I would like you to help me with it.
    I have come across the same kind of sentence before and have taken notes of them. I have got one taken from the Oxford dictionary, p. 284, which goes like this:
    Circumlocation means using more words than are necessary, instead of speaking or writing in a clear, direct way.
    There's another example sentence taken from a book on English writing by a Chinese professor of linguistics:
    You can make your definitions reasonably complete by using as many techniques of defining as are necessary.
    A famous Chinese professor named Chuangui Ge (葛传椝),who passed away in 1992, points out in his The Writing of English (It is an English book intended for Chinese learners of English) that "that which" might be supplied after "than"/ "as" in each sentence above.
    Please tell me, how do you native speakers interpret such than-/ as- structures? Most importantly, how do you decide whether the finite verb following "than" or "as" in such sentences is in its third person singular form or in its third person plural form?
    Thanks.
    Richard
    You have to decide which noun the preposition is attached to grammatically.

    as many techniques as (techniques) are necessary

    restrictions exist -- ...than (restrictions) exist (on copyright of digital information)
    using more words than (words) are necessary

  3. #3
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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on

    Whether or not these proposals had been successful, the restrictions on traditional media remain unchanged.

    So - the restrictions on traditional media existed then, and the same restrictions exist now. To use the past tense - "than existed in traditional media" - is to suggest that since that time, there have been changes to the restrictions on traditional media. If the same restrictions on traditional media exist today as existed back then, use the Present Tense:

    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than exist in traditional media.

    Circumlocation means using more words than are necessary, instead of speaking or writing in a clear, direct way

    Yes, the use of many words where fewer would do ; but also note, that this often implies a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

    Most importantly, how do you decide whether the finite verb following "than" or "as" in such sentences is in its singular or plural form?

    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than (those that) exist in traditional media.
    'those' refers back to 'restrictions' : "...to place greater restrictions...than those that exist in...".
    Since 'restrictions' is plural, so plural verb 'exist'
    Last edited by David L.; 14-Apr-2009 at 11:49.

  4. #4
    ohmyrichard is offline Member
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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on

    Whether or not these proposals had been successful, the restrictions on traditional media remain unchanged.

    So - the restrictions on traditional media existed then, and the same restrictions exist now. To use the past tense - "than existed in traditional media" - is to suggest that since that time, there have been changes to the restrictions on traditional media. If the same restrictions on traditional media exist today as existed back then, use the Present Tense:

    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than exist in traditional media.
    Thanks for your detailed analysis, David L. Then do you think the sentence "These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than exist in traditional media." is quite idiomatic? To be precise, what do you think of the collocation "great(er) restrictions"? And do you native speakers really say "restrictions exist in traditional media"? Does the expression "restrictions exist in traditional media" clearly indicate the relationship between "restrictions" and "traditional media"? I have noticed that you used "restrictions on traditional media" frequently in your analysis and I also feel quite comfortable with "restrictions on...", but why is it "than (those that) exist in traditional media." in the original sentence? I'm sure that if I understand this part better, I will be able to speak or write the same way to better express my idea when the situation calls for the use of the expression.
    Thanks.
    Richard

  5. #5
    ohmyrichard is offline Member
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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than (those that) exist in traditional media.
    'those' refers back to 'restrictions' : "...to place greater restrictions...than those that exist in...".
    Since 'restrictions' is plural, so plural verb 'exist'
    I have also read in the book The Writing of English by that same professor name Chuangui Ge another example sentence which goes, "Here foreign birds which cannot be given freedom in this country will enjoy a much more spacious life than is possible in a small cage." If you think "those that" is implied in "than exist in traditional media", then what do you think is omitted in "than is possible in a small cage"?
    Thanks.
    Richard

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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    "restrictions on traditional media"

    Yes, the collocation is 'restrictions on', which is what I have used in my reply.

    But note that what we have in your sentence is "restrictions that exist in traditional media", which is really:
    'restrictions on copying that exist in the world of/in the sphere of activities of traditional media.

    'in' has the meaning, 'as an integral part of an activity; and 'expressing inclusion' (as 'in a book'/'in the world')
    Do restrictions 'exist on media'? I know we talk about life on Earth, life on Mars, but 'exist on (the surface of ) media'...not really!

    (I have to dash into town - I'll answer the second part when I get back)
    Last edited by David L.; 14-Apr-2009 at 17:21.

  7. #7
    ohmyrichard is offline Member
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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    "restrictions on traditional media"

    Yes, the collocation is 'restrictions on', which is what I have used in my reply.

    But note that what we have in your sentence is "restrictions that exist in traditional media", which is really:
    'restrictions on copying that exist in the world of/in the sphere of activities of traditional media.

    'in' has the meaning, 'as an integral part of an activity; and 'expressing inclusion' (as 'in a book'/'in the world')
    Do restrictions 'exist on media'? I know we talk about life on Earth, life on Mars, but 'exist on (the surface of ) media'...not really!
    (I have to dash into town - I'll answer the second part when I get back)
    Thanks a lot, David L. Your explanation helps me a lot. Have a pleasant time while in town. When you've got a minute, then answer the second part of my question.
    Thanks again.
    Richard

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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    In the first sentence, if we expand it further:
    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than those restrictions that exist in traditional media.

    The expanded second sentence would be:

    "Here, foreign birds which cannot be given freedom in this country will enjoy a much more spacious life than the life that is possible in a small cage."

    You can see why we don't need the extra words!

  9. #9
    ohmyrichard is offline Member
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    Default Re: than exist or than exists?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    In the first sentence, if we expand it further:
    These proposals sought to place greater restrictions on the use and copying of digital information than those restrictions that exist in traditional media.

    The expanded second sentence would be:

    "Here, foreign birds which cannot be given freedom in this country will enjoy a much more spacious life than the life that is possible in a small cage."

    You can see why we don't need the extra words!
    Thank you for telling me everything about this structure. Your explanation is terrific! Thanks again.
    Richard

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