The phrases “compared to” and “compared with” are used interchangeably and are usually assumed to have the same meaning. But do they?
In this article, we will take a closer look at the verb “compare” when it is coupled with the prepositions “to” and “with.”
We know that the prepositions “to” and “with” often mean different things. What happens when we put them together with the verb "compare"?
Using the verb “Compare” with a Preposition
When we put the verb “compare” together with the prepositions “to” or “with,” we have technically created prepositional phrases. Generally speaking, these two prepositional phrases, “compared to” and “compared with” both mean that we are examining the similarities and differences between items, ideas, or people.
But we can be even more exact in our expression when we examine the two phrases separately.
Using the prepositional phrase “Compared To.”
(That is, we are talking about the similarities between this year’s earnings and last year’s earnings.)
What’s more, the phrase “compared to,” is also used to specifically highlight the likenesses between two apparently different classifications of objects.
“John compared Jane’s eyes to the blue sky.”
(That is, two separate categories of objects are being compared: eyes and sky, fruit and sunsets. The aspect of color is the common denominator between the two categories.)
Using the prepositional phrase “Compared With.”
When we use the phrase “compared with,” we are showing differences as well as similarities between any two objects or ideas. We are contrasting them.
“The forecast today is also for sunshine but when compared with the yesterday’s temperatures, the weather will definitely be colder.”
(That is, although there are similar characteristics between today’s weather and yesterday’s, this sentence is stressing the differences.)
What’s more, the phrase “compared with,” can show differences and similarities between two objects or ideas that belong to similar classifications.
“The rhyme in Judy’s modern poem was successful when compared with the other contestant’s poetry.”
(That is, Judy’s poem and the other contestant’s poetry all belong to the same group – poetry - and their differences and similarities are being weighed against each other within the context of that group.)
Other Phrases that use a Verb plus “To” and “With.”
Like “compared to” and “compared with,” there are other prepositional phrases that combine a verb with both “to” as well as “with.”
These phrases include:
• “associated to” vs “associated with”
• “equated to” vs “equated with”
• “liken to” vs “liken with”
As in the case of “compared to” and “compared with,” their meaning and correct usage needs clarification and will be addressed in future articles.
• The phrase “compared to” highlights similarities and tends to show likeness.
• The phrase “compared with” highlights the differences and tends to juxtapose.
The nuances between “compared to” and “compared with” are slight and are easily overlooked. Over a century ago, the term “compared with” was used more often and was considered correct. Today, people favor the expression “compared to.”
It could be that we are seeing the evidence of our living, evolving language as it slowly merges two expressions into one, as “compared to” and “compared with” fuse and become indistinguishable.
Which expression do you intuitively use and prefer?
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