Word Confusion: Compare To versus Compare With

Posted June 16, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Compare to and compare with are similar only in that the first word in each phrase is compare. Once you add either preposition, the meanings reverse depending on which word you use: to or with.

Comparing compare to with compare with demonstrates how different these two similar appearing phrases are with the first pointing up the similarities between what appears to be different things and the latter pointing up the differences between what seems to be similar things.

It is a distinction that is becoming less observed, and important enough that you should pay attention to the differences if you are writing a formal paper or nonfiction.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Compare To Compare With
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Comparison of three flash media from Micro Center computer store: thumb drive, SD and Micro-SD cards, all having capacity of 8 gigabytes, next to a U.S. nickel

“Media Comparison” by self (Taken by “me”) is under the GPL, LGPL, GFDL, BSD, or CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

When comparing the thumb drive with the SD card and the Micro-SD card, the dissimilar appearances resolve into realizing they are each capable of storing 8Gb of digital data.

Cartoon-like poster in bold colors compares Palestinian Arab Terrorists with Israeli IDF soldiers.

“Israeli IDF Soldiers Compare ToPalestinian Arab Terrorists” is Dxrd’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

An excellent example of wrongfully using “compare to”, as this compares two apparently similar people, but shows how different the soldier who uses his own people as a shield with the soldier who fights to protect his people.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: compares to
Past tense or past participle: compared to
Gerund or present participle: comparing with

Verb, intransitive

Third person present verb: compares with
Past tense or past participle: compared with
Gerund or present participle: comparing with

Used to show how two apparently different things are similar

  • Point out the resemblances to
  • Liken to
  • Draw an analogy between one thing and (another) for the purposes of explanation or clarification
Used to show how two apparently similar things are different

  • Have a specified relationship with another thing or person in terms of nature or quality
  • Be of an equal or similar nature or quality

[Grammar] To form or display the degrees of comparison of an adjective or adverb

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” – William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Dying is easy compared to giving a speech.

Total attendance figures were 28,000, compared to 40,000 at last year’s event.

Her novel was compared to the work of Daniel Defoe.

He compared the religions to different paths toward the peak of the same mountain.

Public education doesn’t compare with home schooling.

Individual schools compared their facilities with those of others in the area.

The survey compares prices in different countries with those in our country.

Salaries at Engeeno compare favorably with those of other professions.

Sales were modest and cannot compare with the glory days of 1989.

Before voting, one should always compare the candidate’s claims with his actual performance.

Adjective: uncompared
Noun: comparer, comparison
Verb, transitive: intercompare, intercompared, intercomparing, precompare, precompared, precomparing, recompare, recompared, recomparing
History of the Word:
Late Middle English from the Old French comparer, from the Latin comparare, from compar (like, equal), from com- (with) + par (equal).

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Kindle Paperwhite WiFi by User:Frmorrison is under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 license, and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Rtrace (upload first version) User:ΛΦΠ (upload second version) (OpenLibrary.org) is in the public domain; both are via Wikimedia Commons.