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Hedy Lamarr
'Hedy Lamarr, actress and inventor'

A question from Virgil Olteanu

My name is Virgil and I have been working as an English teacher for over 3 years now. I like to be very thorough with what and how I do things and that's why I have a question for you guys.

In more than one occasion I ran into phrases like: "here are a few of the more renowned". My question is related to "the more". Is it possible in this case? The only "the + comparative" that I know is the expression "the sooner, the better", "the later you arrive, the angrier he'll be."

Thank you for your time!


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Gareth Rees answers:
Hello Virgil.

In answer to your basic question, is "a few of the more renowned" a good or correct phrase? Well, yes, it is.

However, this pattern is different to the other one to which you refer in your question: 'the sooner the better', the later you arrive, the angrier he'll be'. This is an unusual pattern because we use 'the' with a comparative adjective but there is no noun. Also, we change the usual word order of a sentence - this is called inversion.

However, back to your very first example, "a few of the more renowned". In this example you only give part of the sentence, but I think that there should be a noun after 'renowned', for example it could be 'female inventors'. So the example might be as follows.

"Here are a few of the more renowned female inventors: Marie Curie, Hedy Lamarr, etc." By the way, renowned means famous.

Now, there is no problem in saying 'more renowned'. The problem is, can we say 'the' more renowned. In this example we use 'the' because we are referring to a specific group of people - the group of more renowned scientists.

I imagine that you are used to seeing 'the most famous', and it is certainly very common to use 'the' with superlatives, and a lot less common to use it with comparatives. However, it is possible.

Finally, it is possible, Virgil, that your example does not have a noun after renowned. If it doesn't, I think it is because we know from the context what the noun is.

For example, "There are many scientists, here are a few of the more renowned" or "There are many scientists, here are a few of the more renowned ones".

I hope that is one of the clearer explanations that you have received on this topic, but is it perhaps the clearest?!

Gareth Rees has been an English language teacher and teacher trainer for over 10 years. He is currently a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and his first course book for English Language learners is due to be published in 2007.


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