Compare To or Compare With: What’s the Difference?

Specificity in writing is an admirable goal. As writers, we should aim to be as specific and clear as possible, so our readers know precisely what we mean in our writing.

Today, I want to talk about the phrases compare to and compare with. 

Continue reading to find out which situations these were, and whether you should choose compare with or compare to for your writing.

What is the Difference Between Compare to and Compare with?

In this article, I will compare the English phrases compare to vs. compare with. I will use each phrase in a sentence to illustrate its proper use.

Plus, at the end, I will discuss a helpful memory trick to use when deciding whether you should choose compare to or compare with in your writing.

What Does Compare Mean?

Before looking at either of these phrases, we should look at the verb with which each phrase begins: compare.

Compare is a verb that means to examine the similarities and differences between two objects or concepts. A preposition—usually to or with—links the two nouns in the comparison, and in the sentence.

In other words, both of these phrases are used to look at two different items side by side, i.e., to compare them.

Now, let’s look at the phrases at hand.

When to Use Compare To

compare to versus compare with What does compare to mean? To compare something to something else is to observe or point only to likenesses between them. In other words, you are likening one thing to another, or you are making a comment about their similarities.

  • He compared their historic win to that of the 1992 Dream Team.
  • His fight for civil rights is comparable to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The phrase compare to is used when the intent is to assert, without the need for elaboration, that two or more items are similar.

When to Use Compare With

Definition of compare with definition and definition of compare to definitionWhat does compare with mean? To compare something with something else is to place the items side by side, noting differences and similarities between them.

  • They won the championship in a clean sweep, compared with last year’s game 7 loss.
  • Let’s compare your record with your rhetoric.

The phrase compare with is used to juxtapose two or more items to illustrate similarities and/or differences.

Compare To vs. Compare With: What’s the Difference?

If you still aren’t sure of the differences between these two phrases, let’s compare two of the above examples side by side.

  • He compared this year’s historic win to that of the 1992 Dream Team.
  • They won the championship in a clean sweep, compared with last year’s game 7 loss.

As you can see in the first example, the author is saying that this year’s win is similar to the 1992 win of the Dream Team. You are likening the two events.

In the second example, that author is pointing out the differences between this two different championship wins. You are juxtaposing the events looking at their differences.

In other words, the phrase compare to is really meant to liken things together, whereas the phrase compare with is used to juxtapose things with each.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define compare with and define compare toHere is a helpful trick to remember compare with vs. compare to.

Compare with is used to juxtapose two or more things with each other, looking at similarities and differences.

Compare to is used when likening two things together.

You can remember to use compare to for drawing similarities by imagining that you are making an informal analogy—which is more formally stated A is to B as C is to D.

In an analogy, you draw similarities between two or more things, just like you do when you use compare to. This should stick in your mind since they both contain the word to.

Summary

Is it compare to or compare with? Compare is a verb that means to explore similarities and differences between two items.

When used with the preposition with, it refers to weighing or balancing one thing against another. When used with the preposition to, it refers to a suggestion that two things are similar.

If you need a refresher, you can always read back through this article to review the differences between these phrases.

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