Expressing Comparisons of Inequality

Comparisons are common in everyday conversations. When making comparisons of inequality, you judge that one thing is more or less superior than another; when making comparisons of equality, you express that both things are equal. Comparisons are made using adjectives, adverbs, and nouns.

Comparative and superlative (expressing the extreme degree) expressions allow for colloquial (informal) usage of the language. Many of them may be used to express “more” or “less.”

Comparisons of inequality use adjectives, adverbs, and nouns to show that two things are not equal. In English, comparisons take three forms:

The positive states the fact:

  • Adjective: She is honest.

  • Adverb: He speaks fluently.

  • Noun: They do work.

The comparative states “more” or “less.” In English, a comparative may end in ‐er:

  • Adjective: I am taller than Mary.

  • Adverb: He runs slower than Tom.

  • Noun: I eat more/less quickly than Bob.

The superlative states the most or the least — the extreme degree. In English a superlative may end in ‐est:

  • Adjective: John is the most/least honest.

  • Adverb: Beth runs the most/least quickly.

  • Noun: You do the most/least work of all.

Positive

The positive states a fact using an adjective, an adverb, or a noun.

  • Adjective: Ma mère est jeune. (My mother is young.)

  • Adverb: Il parle poliment. (He speaks politely.)

  • Noun: Je mange des lègumes. (I eat vegetables.)

Comparative

In the comparative, the second element is introduced by que:

  • plus + adjective (or adverb or noun) + que = more … than

  • moins + adjective (or adverb or noun) + que = less … than

The second element of the comparative may be a noun, a stress pronoun, or a clause (a group of words). Keep in mind that adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify.

Noun:

  • Ma mère est plus/moins âgèe que mon père. (My mother is older/younger than my father.)

  • Je mange plus rapidement que mon ami. (I eat more quickly than my friend.)

  • Je mange plus de lègumes que de fruits. (I eat more vegetables than fruits.)

Stress pronoun:

  • Ils sont plus intelligents que lui. (They are smarter than he.)

  • Elle travaille plus sèrieusement qu'eux. (She works more seriously than they.)

  • J'ai plus de travail que toi. (I have more work than you.)

Clause:

  • Ce cours est plus facile qu'il croyait. (This course is easier than he believed.)

  • Tu parles plus couramment que je pensais. (You speak more fluently than I thought.)

  • Il a plus d'argent qu'il pensait. (He has more money than he thought.)

In addition, when using an adjective to make the comparions, the second element of the comparison may be an adjective: Elles sont plus ènervèes que fâchèes. (They are more annoyed than angry.)

Finally, when using either an adjective or an adverb to make the comparion, the second element of the comparion may be an adverb.

  • Elles sont plus fâchèes qu'avant. (They are angrier than before.)

  • Elle ècrit plus vite que correctement. (She writes more quickly than correctly.)

Superlative

In the superlative, “in” or “of” is expressed by de + definite article:

  • le (la, les) plus + adjective (or adverb or noun) + de = the most … in (of)

  • le (la, les) moins + adjective (or adverb or noun) + de = the least … in (of)

Using adjectives

Definite articles and adjectives agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify. If an adjective generally precedes the noun, it retains that position in the superlative:

  • Ma mère est la plus jolie de ses sœurs. (My mother is the prettiest of her sisters.)

  • Ma mère est la plus jolie sœur. (My mother is the prettiest sister.)

The adjective may follow the noun, in which case the article is repeated: Mon père est le frère le plus sage. (My father is the wisest brother.)

Table 1 shows adjectives with irregular comparatives and superlatives:

Irregular comparisons and superlatives are used as follows:

  • Tu es ma meilleure amie. (You are my best friend.)

  • Mon problème est encore pire. (My problem is even worse.)

Expressions using bon require special attention:

  • La table verte est bon marchè. (The green table is cheap.)

  • La table blanche est meilleur marchè. (The white table is cheaper.)

Using adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs so they require no agreement: le is always the article: Il apprend le plus vite de tout le monde. (He learns the most quickly of everyone.)

Adverbs with irregular comparatives and superlatives are shown in Table 2:

The expressions plus mal and le plus mal are generally preferred to pis and le pis.

  • Tu parles français mieux que moi. (You speak French better than I.)

  • Elle se sent plus mal. (She feels worse.)

  • Je fais le plus de tous les èlèves. (I do the most of all the students.)

Using nouns

Plus and moins are adverbs and are, therefore, always preceded by le, despite the number and gender of the noun being compared: Elle chante le plus de toutes les filles. (She sings the most of all the girls.)