Double negatives with より

This question came to mind with the following N4 example sentence of:


Is that a common way to express such a comparison? It would seem to me that it’s much simpler, with no mental flip flops involved, to say:

高校生は大学生より宿題が多い instead.

The first sentence reads to me like, "compared to college students, high school students have less fewer amounts of homework, while the second one comes across as "compared to high school students, college students have less homework.

I dunno, maybe it’s just the way my brain parses the sentence, but it just seems like an odd way to say it.

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the first sentence means “college students have less homework than high school students” and the one you posted says “high school students have more homework than college students”

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Yeah, I get that. But since より is a particle that causes the attached word to be less than, and then using a less than adjective 少ない at the end to flip it around, it just comes across to me as a weird sentence. Like you go through the entire sentence assuming it’s going to mean that college students have more homework, just to add the negative adjective at the end and flip the whole thing around.

That’s why I was asking if this is a common way to make such a comparison on Japanese.

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より doesn’t really mean less, it’s a comparator.

大学生は宿題が少ない。“College students have few homework”
大学生は、高校生より、宿題が少ない。 “College students, compared to high school students, have few homework”

To address the actual question, yes this would be a common way of making a comparison.


Another example I just came across on bunpro

要するに部品を替えるよりも機械を買い替えればいいってことだ。" In short, it’s better to replace the whole machine, rather than just parts."

It’s not saying that replacing the parts is less, it’s just saying compared to that, replacing the whole machine is better.


Yeah it’s a comparator where the attached word is less than. At least that’s the way that bunpro describes that in the Caution section of the grammar info.

I still think it’s a weird way to talk, but maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, thanks for the reply.

When thinking of “より” as “less than,” either sentence is weird honestly.

大学生は高校生より宿題が少ない。“Highschool students have less ‘few’ homework than college students” is weird. However,

高校生は大学生より宿題が多い. “College students have less ‘many’ homework than high school students” is just as weird.

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I think it just matters what the speaker is trying to emphasize. The は of the sentence is doing a lot heavy listening that would not occur in spoken Japanese.

It really just depends. Are we talking about University or high school. Are you making a point about the excess or lack thereof of home work. Either is natural as long as it fits the context. I would not really consider it a double negative.

That stuff comes up with normative :wink:

  • 行かなくては行けない。(cannot not go, i.e. must go)
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Can’t you use のほうが instead of より to flip the parity?

— Dave



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I think the better way to translate より to English is simply “than.”

In formal contexts, it can mean “from.”
ex: 東京より出発しました (I departed from Tokyo)

I can’t really describe exactly why, but knowing that より can also mean “from” helped me better understand some of those comparitive sentences.


This is exactly how I think of it as well. Knowing that it means “from” in other contexts also makes the Aより…Bの方が pattern make total sense intuitively. Regardless of the kind of relationship A and B have–positive, negative, bigger, smaller, older, younger, kinder, etc–the degree of whatever always “shifts” or becomes stronger starting “from” より, “towards” whatever 方 is attached to.

In an Aは, Bより pattern, I suppose it might require a little juggling of the brain, but the relationship still applies. The degree of whatever is being expressed is stronger with A than it is with B.

Once you can set up the relationship between the two things in your head without translating, you can anticipate whether that relationship will be positive or negative by the end of the clause/sentence. If you’re having to translate word by word in your head, I’d guess that’s probably why this structure feels so clunky/odd.

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That is a good way to think about it!. It also sometimes mirrors how rather is sometimes used in English and can help in certain interpretations.

  • Rather than A, B.

Rather than apples, I like peaches.

は itself also has this feeling sometimes.