April 02, 2006

O grammar books, O now your virtues show

I can only join with Bill and Arnold in deploring the teachers who insist both ignorantly and unimaginatively that the is an adjective. But I have more admiration for H. W. Fowler, who in The King's English said of the phrase the more the merrier: "In this phrase the is not the article, but an adverb, either relative or demonstrative: by-how-much we are more, by-so-much we shall be merrier." That analysis took some ingenuity, and has to strike a sympathetic chord for those of us who grew up in a more exuberant age of syntactic analysis, back when and could be a verb.

Posted by Geoff Nunberg at April 2, 2006 10:07 PM