Difference Between Compare To and Compare With (With Table)

The term ‘compare’ is a verb that is used when the similarities and differences between objects are being examined. The two nouns that are being compared need to be linked together with a preposition. ‘To’ and ‘With’ are prepositions that are commonly used for this purpose. Understanding when to use both can be confusing. However, knowing the key differences between them can help.

Compare To vs Compare With

The difference between compare to and compare with is that ‘compare to’ is used only when the similarity or likeness of two objects is being observed or pointed out. On the other hand, ‘compare with’ is used when two objects are juxtaposed or placed side-by-side to examine their similarities and/or differences.

‘Compare to’ is used when two objects of different order are being compared. Here, the intent of the speaker is to assert that the two objects are alike, without the need to elaborate much about them. For example, in the sentence ‘Anna’s height can be compared to that of her mother’. In the sentence, it is being inferred that the two entities are alike.  

‘Compare with’ is generally used when two objects of the same order are being compared. Here, the intent is to juxtapose two or more entities to illustrate how they are similar or different from each other. For example, ‘She compared Anna’s voice with her mother’s voice’. In the sentence, the two entities in question may be similar or different.

Comparison Table Between Compare To and Compare With

Parameters of ComparisonCompared ToCompared With
IntentThe intent of using ‘compare to’ is to observe or point out the similarities between two entities.The intent of ‘compare with’ is to juxtapose two entities to examine their similarities and/or differences.
ObjectThe objects in question are of a different order.The objects in question are of a similar order.
ResultThe result of the comparison is in order.The result of the comparison is not in order.
ComparisonThe objects are compared in terms of common quality.The objects are compared with more amount of deep and formal analysis.
OrientationThe term ‘compare to’ is more preferred in American English.The term ‘compare with’ is more preferred in British English.

What is Compare To?

The term ‘compare to’ is used to observe or point out that two or more entities have a similarity between them. The intent is to illustrate the common quality that they have, which is their likeness. When two entities are compared ‘to’ each other, there is no need for elaboration. This means that the sentence is just making an inference and not deducing anything more complex out of it. Moreover, the result that is derived from the comparison is ordered and specific.

The term ‘compare to’ is commonly preferred to be used by those who speak American English. This includes people who live in the United States. ‘Compare to’ made its way to popular usage only after Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII, in which wrote ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ Here, he disregarded the previously existing rule of using ‘compare’ only with the accompaniment of ‘with’. 

Some examples of sentences including ‘compare to’ are –

‘The players were very energetic this year although not as much compared to the previous game.’

‘The teacher compared Jake to a parrot for too much.’

‘Egypt has a lower number of HIV cases as compared to  the rest of Africa.’

‘It is very easy for me to complete these tasks compared to three years ago when I was struggling.’

What is Compare With?

The term ‘compare with’ is used to juxtapose two or more entities to examine the similarities and /or differences between them. The intent is to elaborate their qualities with a greater element of formal analysis. The result of the comparison is derived in non-ordered form and is generally vague in nature. This is because the comparison may either yield a similarity or difference between the entities.

Originally, the word ‘compare’ was always used along with the word ‘with’. It was only when Shakespeare used the word ‘to’ after which the rule changed. In today’s time, the term ‘compared with’ is mostly preferred by those who speak British English. This includes people who live outside the United States. Moreover, the term is generally used in Standard English where the setting is more academic and formal.

Some examples of sentences in which the term ‘compare with’ is used are –

‘Please do not compare me with others.’

‘To compare two objects with each other, a simile a used.’

‘Anna’s drawing can be compared with a map to derive the exact location.’

‘His achievements do not compare with those of Ramanujan.’

‘No other painter can compare with Sutherland when it comes to the subtlety of his vision.’

Main Differences Between Compare To and Compare With

  1. The intent of using ‘compare to’ is to point out the likeness of two entities whereas that of ‘compare with’ is to juxtapose the entities to examine their similarities and/or differences.
  2. In the case of ‘compare to’, the objects in question are generally of a different order whereas in the case of ‘compare with’, the objects in question are generally of a similar order.
  3. When ‘compare to’ is used, the results are ordered whereas when ‘compare with’ is used, the results are non-ordered.
  4. ‘Compare to’ compares objects in terms of common quality whereas ‘compare with’ compares them with a deeper analysis.
  5. ‘Compare to’ is preferred in American English whereas ‘compare with’ is preferred in British English.

Conclusion

‘Compare to’ and ‘compare with’ are two terms that have very complex differences. Therefore, understanding them may be an arduous task for many. However, a simple difference between them is that ‘compare to’ only points out the likeness that two entities possess whereas ‘compare with’ is used to juxtapose two terms that may be similar and/or different.

Moreover, ‘compare to’ is generally preferred by those who speak American English. It is used in an informal setting and in spoken English. On the other hand, ‘compare with’ is generally preferred by those who speak British English, especially in times where the setting is more academic and formal.

References

  1. https://lsa.umich.edu/content/dam/aem-train-assets/train-documents/bill-shakes-sonnet-18.pdf
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27760271
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