I was reading a sentence in which there is no doer or we can add a doer in the end, which makes it a passive sentence. But it was written similar to an active sentence.

The pain of cultural loss cannot compare.

Isn't it wrong? I was thinking of this sentence like :

The pain of cultural loss cannot be compared(by anyone).

What is the difference between two?

  • 1
    Intransitive compare is very rare outside of Elizabethan / Shakespearean poetic contexts. Note that it's still a rare intransitive usage whether you explicitly specifiy the subject (anyone) or not. The thing is we normally specify the object (the thing which something is compared to, not the people doing the comparison). Whatever - there's not enough difference between your two examples to justify taking note of it. Avoid both. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 12:17
  • Intransitive "compare" is common, where it typically takes a with or to PP complement. Your example is a reduced clause, where the complement of "compare" is ellipted". If the ellipsis was filled in, we might have something like "The pain of cultural loss cannot compare with that of the grief and a sense of loss".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 13:26

2 Answers 2


This is the intransitive form of “to compare”, and the subject is “the pain”. From Merriam-Webster:

compare verb

com·​pare | \ kəm-ˈper \

intransitive verb

1 : to bear being compared
The two don't even begin to compare.
We bought two different brands of peanut butter to see how they compare.

2 : to make comparisons
If we now go to Italy at all, we go not to learn, but to compare.

3 : to be equal or alike
Nothing compares to you.

This is certainly a less common usage of the word, but it isn’t archaic, much less wrong.


Some verbs have both transitive and intransitive possiblitites:

She opened the door / The door opened

The transitive form can also be passive

The door was opened (by her) / The door opened

The difference between the passive and the intransitive form is that the passive form implies an actor (somebody to open the door) even if there is no "by" phrase. The intransitive form doesn't imply that "somebody opened the door", it could have opened "by itself".

The verb compare is sometimes used intransitively in "Nothing compares to you", but more often it is transitive "I compare you to her" (which could be passive: You are compared to her by me - but don't use passive unless you have to)

The difference between the sentences is that the passive form implies the existance of a person doing the comparing. The first form does not imply the existance of someone to do the comparing.

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