6

Please check both sentences and let me know, which one is correct and why?

  1. She compares me with her boyfriend.

  2. She compares me to her boyfriend.

10

Here are relevant quotes from three books, written in different times, from different points of view. (All authors are American. The term SAWE is used in one of the books.) I present them here so that the OP and other readers can hear different opinions and decide for themselves what to believe.

Compare. To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances, between objects regarded as essentially of different order; to compare with is mainly to point out differences, between objects regarded as essentially of the same order. Thus life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.
The Elements of Style

compare with; compare to.
The usual phrase is compare with, which means “to place side by side, noting differences and similarities between” <let us compare his goals with his actual accomplishments>. Compare to = to observe or point only to likenesses between <the psychologist compared this action to Hinckley's assassination attempt>.
The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style, Bryan A. Garner

compare to, compare with Use of either is SAWE1 to mean either (a) "liken (something) to (something else)" (You can't compare a Volkswagen to a [or with] Rolls-Royce) or (b) "observe similarities and differences between (something) and (something else)" (Comparing a Volkswagen to [or with] a Rolls-Royce, you notice a big difference in price). Caution: Many readers object to use of compare to to mean (b) and of compare with to mean (a).
Good Grammar Made Easy, Martin Steinmann and Michael Reller, p.79

1Standard American Written English

  • I was a little surprised by the downvote. Perhaps the downvoter didn't realize that the post contained just two quotes from two books on English grammar and usage, and that may be my fault because I didn't make it as clear as I should have. Edited. – Damkerng T. Apr 5 '14 at 1:41
  • It's indeed a nice post, and +1 for that. – Man_From_India May 2 '14 at 0:43
  • +1 Writers and speakers as a group (as distinguished from particular writers and speakers) have never observed any consistent distinction between compare to and compare with. – StoneyB May 2 '14 at 1:11
1

Generally, this will go unnoticed by most.

However, if we see this microscopically, we can find the difference.

To compare to is to remark or entail similarity between things/people regarded as different order.
To compare with is generally to remark the differences between things/people regarded as same order.

It's up to her, how she's taking you and her boyfriend!

Imagine a case wherein she's comparing you with her boyfriend that you equally run fast as him; but if she's comparing to her boyfriend, you probably ran faster (positively comparing) or slower (negatively compared)!

  • 3
    The opinion that there is a difference between to compare to/with is new to me. Where does this rule come from? The other opinions stated here made me curious. And indeed Longman's dictionary DCE has two differentiations and Oxford's COD has even four. I really wonder whether such subtle differentiations are really observed. I would think they are rather a hindrance than a reasonable thing. In any case, I think, in everyday language there is no time for such subtle analises. – rogermue Mar 31 '14 at 11:53
  • I agree with rogermue. From time to time 'authorities' have attempted to distinguish the two; but no such distinction has ever been observed in use. – StoneyB May 2 '14 at 1:09
0

I've upvoted @MaulikV's answer here, because although it's quite true that most people in most contexts wouldn't distinguish between compared to and compared with, I think these charts strongly suggest that historically there was indeed a tendency to use to in contexts emphasizing similarity, and with in contexts emphasizing difference.

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I think we can be pretty sure most contexts involving has been compared to/with will be calling attention to similarities, whereas contexts involving but compared to/with are almost certainly calling attention to differences.

But that's obviously a historical difference. Clearly the modern trend is to use compare to in all contexts.


It may also be relevant that similarities to is more common than similarities with, but differences with beats out differences to.

  • And thus we lose the richness and power of the English language. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate." The thrust of the first 12 lines of that sonnet is prefigured in the first, but our tolerance for sloppy language detracts from our understanding of our linguistic legacy. There were good reasons for teaching Received English. – Jeff Morrow Oct 13 at 14:46
  • @Jeff Morrow: I can't say I buy into all that English today is a pale imitation of its former glory malarkey. Reminds me of people who still think Citizen Kane represents the high point of the movie industry. (Or that it's all been downhill since we left the Garden of Eden! :) – FumbleFingers Oct 13 at 14:59
  • (I happened to watch a couple of foreign movies last night. Watching the credits, I was intrigued to notice that although every other contributory role was translated into the relevant French or Spanish equivalents, neither of those languages seem to have a word for the Casting credit. English continues to reign supreme! :) – FumbleFingers Oct 13 at 15:02
  • Yes. It is a great improvement that people now think "literally" means "figuratively." It is not necessary to believe that all has gone downhill by observing with regret that even well educated people have become sloppy in their use of language. "I would say" when what is meant is "I say" is simply pretentious nonsense, and it is not made less nonsensical because it is commonplace. – Jeff Morrow Oct 13 at 15:10
  • If by that you mean you think I would say he's guilty is nothing more that a pointlessly verbose version of I say he's guilty, all I [can] say is I don't agree (or I disagree, which may or may not amount to the same thing! :) – FumbleFingers Oct 13 at 15:35

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