I have been hearing something lately that sounds rather odd to me. I hear some people using "to" instead of "than" when making comparisons. For example:

New York City is bigger to Chicago.

Anacondas are longer to pythons.

I was taught and have for years heard people use "than" rather than "to" in those situations.

Is using "to" rather than (or to) "than" being taught nowadays?

I feel like I've slipped into a parallel dimension when I hear this form of expression.

Tags: grammar, modern, usage

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Several Russian co-workers tell me they learned English in grade school as a requirement. They get asked to say "moose and squirrel" all the time when we go out for drinks. I explained it to them  and they had a good chuckle. I feel a bit cheated because we didn't learn a second language till high school when it was more difficult. I guess the schools have a hard enough time teaching English.

Once they do start using them, you'll see an occasional "a/an" where there should have been a "the" and vice versa.

I once, in the early days of phishing, read the email that was trying to phish and spotted some subtle wrongness in a lot of the sentences then realized the writer was probably a Russian who didn't quite get it.

If we try to learn Japanese, for example, it has past and present tenses, but no specific future tense, although present tense is put to service there. (Don't ask me how: I haven't studied Japanese.)

I wonder if having no future tense interferes with understanding the concept of causality.

If memory serves, Russian has a similar phenomenon--but first you have to get a feel for "aspect", some verbs describe a continuing (or repeated) action, while others describe a single completed act. 

The first kind ("imperfective") can take past, present or future tense:  I was reading, I am reading, I will be reading.  (The verb is chitat')  

The second ("perfective") can only take past or future tense.  "I read the book, I will read the book" because a completed action obviously isn't taking place right now.  (prochitat':  the perfective and imperfective forms usually resemble each other.) 

But the grammatical form of that perfective future is just like the present tense of an imperfective verb--the infinitive ending replaced with the proper ending to match the first/second/third and/or plural of the person(s) performing the act.  So the rule you use for the imperfective form's future tense just doesn't get used for those perfective verbs.

When you hear a verb you don't know in the present tense, you have to do some fast thinking--is it an imperfective verb and therefore really the present tense, or a perfective verb, and therefore really the future tense?

See, we may be busting on English right now for having articles the Russians have a hard time with, but Russian can make you wonder how the fuck they manage to speak the language and remember to breathe too.  And it's not even a particularly difficult foreign language! 

(At least their spelling is almost perfectly consistent.  You can look at a word in print, and, if someone tells you which syllable has the stress, reliably pronounce it 99.9% of the time just from knowing a fairly small number of rules.  Alas the reverse is not necessarily true as it's a one-to-many mapping in that direction.)

The magic and power of English is that it is a whore of a language. Unlike French speakers, who adopt an almost racial purity attitude toward their language, attempting to purge foreign-isms, English speakers don't care about that. It's one reason why English has become the international language of diplomacy, supplanting French, and in business as well. You can get by in more places around the world by speaking English than any other language. in the world, it may switch to Chinese, but eventually, i think the diverse major languages will merge in the way English has been merging with other languages through adoption.

"and therefore really the future tense"

Similar thing happens in English. "I'm going to the pub after work." (Present Continuous tense - but future). When someone says, "I will go to the pub after work", chances are they're speaking English as a second language.

Or they could say "I will go to the pub after work," they might be saying an implied "Believe me when I say" or "Have no doubt." It's emphatic whereas "I'm going to the pub after work" is merely an expression of intent lacking full commitment.

It's like the english curriculum was computer generated and no-one bothered to check it for accuracy...

I'm looking for writing work and occasionally respond to online ads. I also have a couple things for sale. The scam replies one gets are actually hilarious because they are so obvious. The job scammers quickly give away that they aren't native speakers because almost none of them seem to understand how to use conditional language. For example, instead of writing "I would like blah, blah, blah," they almost invariably write "I will like blah, blah, blah." Just a few hours spent learning how to use "would" and "could" would earn them a lot more money, but let's not tell them that.

The other hilarious thing is that they often ignore that I'm selling writing skill and come back with "Still looking for work? I need an apartment cleaner. The pay is $1000 a week." Ignoring for a minute that you can hire cleaners for less than half that, he goes into the standard check scam where he proposes to send me a certified check for a certain amount of which I get to keep a portion with the balance deposited into the account of an associate of his (which is really under his control). By the time the check would bounce, I'd be stuck with owing the bank the entire amount on the check plus  whatever charges I've incurred.

Hopefully all of us here would smell a rat almost immediately. I often wonder who the dim bulbs are who fall for these scams.

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