French Comparatives

The Different Degrees of Comparison in French

French and English enjoy common ways of expressing degrees of comparison namely ,  equality or inequality.  (Inequality can reflect either inferiority [e.g. less than], greatest inferiority [e.g. the least], superiority [e.g. more than] or greatest superiority [e.g. the most] between people or things.)  However, French does not have an equivalent to the English ending forms -er and -est (e.g. abler, ablest) to express superiority or greatest superiority.

In both languages, comparisons are made with/about nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs.

Equality, Inferiority and Superiority

Except for the six exceptions detailed below, one always uses “moins” to express inferiority (e.g. moins accentué / less accented) or “plus” to express superiority (e.g. plus capable / more capable).

French

English

Equality

aussi adjective/adverb (que)

as … (as)

autant de noun (que noun/pronoun)

as many/much … (as)

autant que noun/pronoun

as many/much … as

Inferiority

moins adjective/adverb (que)

less … (than)

moins de noun (que)

less … (than)

moins de numeral

less than …

Superiority

plus adjective/adverb (que)

more … (than)

plus de noun (que)

more … (than)

plus de numeral

more than …

Examples:

Equality:

Il fait aussi chaud que l’an dernier. / The weather is as hot as last year.  (adjective)

Elle vient aussi souvent que moi. / She comes as often as I.  (adverb)

J’ai autant de chance que toi. / I have as much luck as you. (noun … pronoun)

Elle nous manque autant qu’á toi./ We miss her as much as you.  (pronoun)

Inferiority:

Ce terrain est moins développé que l’autre. / This plot is less developed than the other one.  (adjective)

On avance moins rapidement que prévu. / We are advancing less rapidly than anticipated. (adverb)

Vous attrapez moins de poissons que votre voisin. / You catch fewer fish than your neighbor. (noun)

Brad Pitt est payé moins de cent millions de dollars. / Brad Pitt is paid less than one hundred million dollars.  (numeral)

Superiority:

C’est plus beau que je ne le croyais. / It’s more beautiful than I thought.  (adjective)

Ils ont répondu plus gentiment que vous. / They answered more nicely than you. (adverb)

Nous avons plus de courage que nos adversaires. / We have more courage than our opponents.  (noun)

Tu as perdu plus de dix mille euros. / You lost more than ten thousand euros. (numeral)

There are 3 adjectives and 3 adverbs whose comparison progressions are irregular.

*Irregular Adjective Superiority Comparison:

bon => good

meilleur (NOT plus bon)  =>  better  (comparative)

mauvais => bad

plus mauvais (pire) => worse   (comparative)

petit =>  small

plus petit (moindre)   =>  smaller  (comparative)

* bon is the only true exception as it has no regular comparative; the other two have irregular comparatives as well as regular ones, with the irregular forms (in parenthesis) being used in more circumscribed situations.

Irregular Adverb Superiority Comparison:

bien =>  well

mieux (NOT plus bien)   => better  (comparative)

peu => little  (comparative)

moins (NOT plus peu) => less

beaucoup => very, much

plus (NOT plus beaucoup)  =>  more  (comparative)

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