Grammar-QuizzesClausesComparative Clauses › The more, the more

The more…, the more…

Express that two things vary together

Earthquake debris in Napa 2014

In Context

At 3:20 in the early morning, we were awakened from our sleep by the shaking of our bed. As we lay there, the shaking became more intense. Things started to fall. The louder it became, the more we understood that we needed to take cover. We rolled out of bed and under it, and we waited for the shaking to end. When it did, the room was still and silent except for our beating hearts.

We found our phones and used the flashlights to locate our shoes and coats. The lights were not working, so we knew this was a bad earthquake. We walked around and surveyed the damage. The more we looked, the more stuff—glass, dishware, ceiling plaster, fireplace bricks—we found lying on the floor. Fortunately, we were not hurt.  (South Napa, California 2014)


Two things vary— The more vs. As


We use a reduced clause in each part of a The more…, the … expression. The correlative comparative is a paired construction. Each part is syntactically alike. A comma separates the two clauses.

The more the building shook, the more we held on.

The louder it became, the more we saw things falling down.

The more we saw, the less we could believe.

The more we looked, the fewer things we found to retrieve.  


The meaning varies from cause-effect actions to simply same-time occurrences.  Not every As more, then sentence can be restated as a The more…, the … expression.                                                      

As/Because the shaking of the building grew stronger, we held on more.

As/Because it became louder, we saw things falling down.

As we saw more (destruction), it was harder to believe (what we saw).

As we looked, we found fewer things to retrieve (from the debris).


debris (N) – the pieces of something that are left after it has been destroyed in an accident, explosion 

plaster (N) – the wall or ceiling finish (a substance that is applied to walls in a pasty form, then dries hard, and then can be painted)

retrieve (V) – find something and bring it back

survey (V) – take a general or comprehensive (over all) view of something, inspect, examine

take cover (VP) – move to a safe or protected place

(Huddleston 13 §4.6)

Related pages   More / -er, Farther/Further, Comparisons.





A Varying Relationship

Express outcome

Sweet Success–Paycheck

Expected vs. Unexpected Outcome


In some expressions, the second variation is an expected outcome.  Note that the word, verb, phrase and clause forms are parallel in each part of the expression.  Be is omitted in the reduced construction.


The larger the paycheck, the greater the purchase.  noun-noun

The lower the rates, the more the borrowers.


*The stronger, the better(coffee, nations, will)  adjective-adjective

The bigger, the better(toys, cars)  adjective-adjective  

The more, the merrier(people)  adjective-adjective  


The higher they rise, the more they earn.   clause-clause

The older I get, the more I understand.

The more you give, the more you lose. (love, wealth)

The more you learn, the more you earn.  (education)


In other expressions, the second variation is unexpected or contrary outcome.  The word forms should be parallel in each half of the expression.                                                                                                                      


The larger the paycheck, the less you take home. (because of taxes)

The lower the rates, the fewer the lenders.  


The stronger, the worse.   (Unclear context, not an expression)

The smaller, the better(computers, phones, microchips)  adjective-adjective  

Less is better.    (a design or architectural concept)


The higher they rise, the harder they fall.  (politicians, leaders, businessmen)

The older I get, the younger I feel.

The more you give, the more you receive. (love, wealth)

The more we learn, the less we know.


The stronger, the better – "Note that in this structure, the word the is not really the definite article— it was originally a form of the demonstrative pronoun, meaning 'by that much'." — (Swan 139.5)   

Also see The Group (an adjective names the group) the strong, the weak, the blind.





A Varying Relationship

Express specific vs. general

Student using computer

The more expression with count and noncount nouns


For some nouns, both a plural and singular forms exists. Expressions that are more specific, tend to use the plural count noun. The is used in the comparative phrasing of each part. A possessive pronoun — my, your, his — is used when speaking more specifically.


The better your education is, the greater your opportunities will be.

The more you plan, the better your experiences.

The more input we have, the better our conversations.

The better you sleep, the more rested your mind.  


General expressions tend to use the noncount noun or singular noun (but not always).  Proverbs tend to use noncount nouns. A reduced correlative comparative construction omits be verbs.                                                                                        


The better the education, the greater the opportunity.  (reward)

The better the planning, the better the experience.

The more the input, the better the conversation.

The better the sleep, the more rested the mind.


The is used in the comparative phrasing of each part, particularly with the more, the greater, the better, the lesser, the fewer, the harder
"Historically this the is not the usual definite article but the fossilised remnant of an Old English instrumental case-form meaning "by so/that much". It came to fall together phonologically with the definite article, but its syntactic distribution still reflects its different origin." (Huddleston 13 §4.5)    

Related page Count / Noncount (both sing. and plural)  





A Varying Relationship

Place emphasis in the varying relationship



Basic vs. Fronted Clause Order


In basic word order, emphasis is placed on the effect expressed in the main clause followed by the cause (varying item) in the subordinate clause. The main clause is worded as a comparative clause (-er, more, less) followed by as and a clause with another comparative phrase (-er, more, less) or word. This clause order often sounds awkward with the more, the more wording.        


You will have greater opportunities

as you have better / more education.  


~the better the education you have.

The violence becomes worse

as the unemployment increases.


~the more (the) unemployment increases.

We are less like to comply

as he imposes more rules.   


~the more he imposes rules.


For emphasis the cause clause is "fronted", placed first. It begins with a comparative phrase such as the better, the more, the higher, etc. It is followed by the effect which also begins with a comparative phrase such as the more, the greater, the better, the lesser, the fewer, the harder. The subject and predicate (verb) can be included to add specific information or omitted to express a general statement.


The better the education you have, (comma)

the greater the opportunities you will have. (specific to "you")

The better the education,

the greater the opportunity. (general statement)

The more the unemployment increases,

the worse the violence becomes. (specific to now)

The higher the unemployment rate,

the worse the level of violence.(general statement)

The more the governor imposes rules,

the less likely we are to comply.  (specific to "we" or "us")

The more the rules

the less the compliance. (general statement)


*not used / ~awkward sounding

compliance – when someone obeys a rule, agreement, or demand

impose – to force someone to have the same ideas, beliefs as you

correlative comparative construction — The more they work, the more we pay. Note the parallel construction of the two parts. This is a scalar comparison. One thing changes as the other changes. The reverse is not necessarily equivalent: The harder they work = the more we pay.





Common Mistakes

Focus and Solutions

Big Wheels 4 X 4

Error and Solution


~The bigger the wheels, the more fun it is.

(Unclear; is there an understood relationship between big wheels and fun?)

*The more we saw, the more our disbelief. 


Pop Question  "The more"   

*The more, the worse. 

Unclear reference

*The more rain, the worse flood.  

Missing articles

*The more I know, the better job I will get. 

Missing article


The bigger the wheels, the better the traction.

The bigger the wheels are, the higher you sit.

The more we saw, the less we could believe / the more we couldn't believe.   (specific to a person)

The greater the disaster, the more the disbelief.  (general, all)

Use parallel (like) structures in each half of the expression.  

The more the cars, the worse the traffic.

The more the noise, the worse the experience.  

Add nouns to make the topic / subject matter clear.  

The more it rains, the worse the flooding is.  (complete the clause)

The more the rain, the worse the flood/flooding.   (or add the)

This expression requires the article the before the adjective and the noun.  

I will get a better job the more I know.  (basic word order)
The more I know, the better the job I will get.  (fronted clause)
The more you know, the better the job.  (reduced fronted clause)

This expression requires the article the before the adjective and the noun.  


*not used




Works Cited

Texts & Images






Practice 1

The more…, the more!

teeter totter

Complete the expression.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or the "check 1-12" button.






Related page farther / further















Practice 2

Expressions & Sayings



Complete the expression with a relative activity that is logical.

  1. Select the word or words that best complete the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the answer to the right by clicking the "check" button.


  risk (N) – a dangerous chance







  verse (N) – words: a set of lines that forms a part of a song, poem, or a book such as the Bible or the Koran