Student Stumper 18: MORE and Its Variations

A YouTube viewer caught me saying that I personally don’t use Sweet! to mean Cool! or Neat! because Sweet! is “more of a guy expression.”  Whether you agree with that or not isn’t what I wish to discuss. The viewer was stumped by my use of “more of a” rather than simply “more”.

QUESTION:  Is there any difference between the sentences below?

a)      It’s more of a guy expression.

b)      It’s more a guy expression.

ANSWER: I believe the sentences are equivalent in meaning, but I can only explain the grammar of the second sentence. In sentence B more is an adverb. It’s similar to saying the color of the sky today is more gray than blue. In sentence A more of is a determiner, but I didn’t follow the determiner with something that could be counted or measured, (as in I need sunshine, and I want more of it.) Does that mean sentence A is an example of non-standard grammar that has become acceptable through its frequent use?

To make it even more confusing, let’s consider two other sentences:

c)       It’s more like something a guy would say.

d)      It’s more so something a guy would say.

Sentence C sounds acceptable to my ears, but the wording is typical of everyday spoken English.  If I were to rewrite the same thought for an academic context, I’d say: It is more typical of a man’s speech. Hmm, do you see that I reverted back to simply “more”? (NOTE: The use of “of” is explained by its position after an adjective. We know that structure with other qualities: how kind of you, how rude of her, how good of him, etc.)

As for sentence D, the folks at Washington State University advise us to favor “more” over “more so” because the latter is so commonly misused not to mention misspelled.

What do you think? Should we give preference to the single word more whenever possible to avoid confusion?

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