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The sentence トムは私より身長が高いです。 means "Tom is taller than I me." but I'm trying to find the meaning of each word in order to understand the japanese sentence better. Here is what I have so far:

トムは(Tom is topic), 私(I, me), より(less than or greater than?), 身長が(height of body), 高いです(is tall).

So I am having trouble making sense of how the words and particles relate to the sentence.

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4 Answers 4

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I think your problem is with より rather than all of the sentence. より does not indicate more or less than something. より introduces a standard of comparison. You may think of it as "from" or "with respect to".

Breaking it down:

  • トムは - Tom (as the topic)

  • 私より - I (as the standard of comparison)

  • 身長が - stature (subject)

  • 高い - tall

  • です - is (copula)


Let's make a simpler sentence:

  • トムは身長が高いです。:

Literally: "As for Tom, stature is tall"

Naturally: "Tom is tall"

Now let's add 私より into the mix:

  • トムは私より身長が高いです。:

Literally: "As for Tom, with me(私) as a standard of comparison(より), his stature is tall"

Naturally: "Tom is taller than I"

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"As for Tom, with me(私) as a standard of comparison(より), his stature is tall" in this explication, one possible interpretation would be that Tom and I are the same height (I am tall, tom is the same height as me, thus he is tall as well). Do you think this same possible interpretation exists in the original japanese? For this reason, perhaps interpreting より solely as "...standard of comparison" may be flawed. Maybe if we beefed up the japanese sentence the skewed comparison might be clearer 私よりトムの方が身長が高いです。(hopefully that is grammatically correct). –  yadokari Apr 24 '12 at 12:12
    
do you think that line of thinking is reasonable? –  yadokari Apr 24 '12 at 12:13
    
@yadokari. I understand what you mean (Just because there are two apples, and I say that one is red, does not automatically make the other one not red). But intuitively it does not seem to work this way. –  Flaw Apr 24 '12 at 12:46
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I'm not sure where you're confused, because you broke down the translations correctly.

Just think of it this way.

トムは身長がたかいです → Tom is tall

私より means "more than I", so when you add it in to the sentence, you get something more literally like "Tom is tall more than I". And it's easy to see that that is equivalent to "Tom is taller than I am."

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I personally do not agree with Xより meaning "more than X". It is not incorrect though, I just feel that the underlying mechanism should take precedence over the derived meaning. –  Flaw Apr 24 '12 at 2:18
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Since the question seems to be the meaning of より I will respond as such.

より + an adjective simply means "more (than)".

To use your example, 「トムは私より高い」 means "Tom is taller than me".

However you can also something like this 「トムはより高い」 meaning simply "Tom is taller".

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Wouldn't 「トムはより高い」 mean "Taller than Tom" ? –  xrac Apr 23 '12 at 23:50
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@xrac That would be トムより高い, the は makes all the difference –  Ian Apr 24 '12 at 0:08
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Here is another breakdown:

トムは私より身長が高いです

Tom is トムは (です)

more than me 私より

height is tall 身長が高い (です)

Tom is more than me tall.

Tom is taller than me.

Tom is taller than I.

Please note that while my breakdown may imply that は and が mean "is", they do not. These word do not translate directly into english.

You can also try and understand it by translating より as less:

Tom is トムは (です)

I less 私より

tall height 身長が高い

Tom is I less tall height.

or

Tom is me less tall height.

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