Could someone please let me know whether "by far" can be used comparatively. Actually, almost all dictionary examples have used it in a superlative comparison, however I'm quite sure I have heard native speakers use it in comparative structures! Is it a common mistake by native speakers in informal speech or it is something grammatically natural?

Also, it is worth mentioning that I could not find any English grammar rule acknowledging this is wrong to use it in comparative constructions.


  1. Superlative: It is by far the best car in the world. (Which is perhaps the most common use of the term.)
  2. Comparative: This restaurant is by far better than that one.

As a non-native one I cannot find anything wrong with it, but I have no clue why no dictionary has used it in comparative form?


The two "natural" sequences (most common first) for this "emphatic" comparative usage are...

1: This restaurant is far better than that one (by far the most common form)
2: This restaurant is better by far than that one (rather "literary" phrasing)

...in this context where ...is by far better than that... is at least "non-idiomatic" (but probably not actually "ungrammatical").

Note that [by] far doesn't directly relate to OP's "superlative / comparative" distinction, which is entirely governed by the choice between best and better. It's just that the syntax of how to use it differs.

  • "...is by far better than that... " needs commas, i.e. "...is, by far, better than that... " – chasly - supports Monica Dec 19 '20 at 17:33
  • Only 1 of the first 10 matches for is by far better than that in Google Books has commas. But I think the "natural" position for intensifying by far is AFTER the word better, as per my example #2 above, and the only justification for setting it off by commas is by way of "acknowledging" in the orthography that it's relatively non-idiomatic. Google Ngrams supports my perspective (more so with BrE, but AmE is broadly similar). – FumbleFingers Dec 20 '20 at 14:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.