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Somewhere I encountered the following example sentence:

小{ちい}さいのより大{おお}きい方{ほう}がいいです。

It's supposed to mean "The big (one) is better than the small (one)." If I understand correctly, より should directly follow a noun (or a noun-like construction, ), and 方 shold be attached to a noun using the の particle. So in my opinion, the above sentence should be more like

小{ちい}さいより大{おお}きいの方{ほう}がいいです。

or

大{おお}きいの方{ほう}が小{ちい}さいよりいいです。

To make it more confusing, 小さい and 大きい are not nouns, and even as adjectives, they behave specially (sometimes they are treated like い-adjectives, sometimes they require な).

So my question is, what is the correct way to say "the big (one) is better than the small (one)"?

Edit: now that I think about it, 方 and より can be attached to plain-form expressions without the の, so maybe the correct version should not contain の at all:

大{おお}きい方{ほう}が小{ちい}さいよりいいです。

  • How many objects are the speaker seeing for size comparison? – l'électeur May 13 '15 at 11:35
  • Let's say this sentence occurs in a discussion regarding choosing 1 item to buy from 2 items. – athoshun May 13 '15 at 11:56
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First, the の seen in the first sentence is a nominalizer, which converts verbs and adjectives into nouns. See this post for how it works, but in short, it is の that makes it mean "small(er) one" here.

Second, より ("than") doesn't only attach to nouns but to verbs and adjectives too. It also doesn't change the meaning the former word has.

Third, 方 accepts verbs and adjectives too. It directly attaches to them and only requires の (a different one from the nominalizer mentioned above) before it when attached to nouns.

Then you'll know your second and third examples are grammatically wrong, and your last one,

大きい方が小さいよりいいです。 (To be) big is better than (to be) small.

has a different meaning from what you provided.

Last but not least, 方 has a side effect that it is a nominalizer too! Strictly speaking, 方 is a noun and already means "the X(-er) side" (X is what precedes it), so you don't need to add an extra equivalent to "one" in this part. Now, the original example:

小さいのより大きい方がいいです。

is perfectly grammatical for "The bigger one is better than the smaller one." or more practically, "I'd like the bigger one rather than the smaller."

  • 1
    Theoretically, would it be possible to add a nominalising の to make a noun, which then requires a subordinating の to modify 方? That is, would it in theory be possible to say 「小さいのより大きいのの方がいいです」, similar to how you might say 「小さいものより大きいものの方がいいです」? – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 13 '15 at 16:57
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    @JanusBahsJacquet, yes, 大きいのの方 is perfectly grammatical. – dainichi May 14 '15 at 1:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet See the chat log, but I think it's substandard in written language. – broccoli forest May 14 '15 at 2:14

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