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The Basics of Comparing Two Elements in French

A basic comparison in French starts with an element (either an adjective, a verb, or an adverb) and the type of comparison (more, less, or as):

  • For more/than, French uses plus/que

  • For less/than, French uses moins/que

  • For as/as, French uses aussi/que

The first element is followed by que (than, as), which introduces the original element of a comparison (what you’re comparing against). After que, the second part of the comparison can have any of the following words or phrases:

  • A name: que Julie (as Julie)

  • A noun: que ma mère (than my mother)

  • A stress pronoun: que toi (than you)

  • An indefinite pronoun: que d’autres (than others)

  • A prepositional phrase: qu’à Paris (than in Paris)

  • An expression of time: que l’an dernier (than last year)

Que becomes qu’ before a vowel or a mute -h.

Here are some examples of basic comparisons:

Je suis plus petite que ma mère. (I’m shorter than my mother.)
Ils sont aussi gentils que vous. (They are as kind as you.)
Vous travaillez plus que d’autres. (You work more than others.)
Cette année, ils ont moins de travail que l’an dernier. (This year they have less work than last year.)

In English, a comparative is often marked by adding -er to the end of an adjective, like smarter and taller. This construction doesn’t exist in French; you always have to use plus followed by the adjective, like this: plus intelligent.

Incomplete French comparisons

In everyday talk, when describing something that’s obvious to everyone because of the context, you can omit the second half of a two-item comparison — everything from que on.

For example, you and a friend are eating two different pies; your friend tastes yours and declares: Elle est moins bonne. (It’s not as good.) No need to say more — in other words, you don’t need to say Elle est moins bonne que ma tarte. (It’s not as good as my pie). Or perhaps you’re sitting outside and decide to take off your sweater because il fait moins froid maintenant (it’s less cold now).

Increased French comparisons

Did you know that you can increase a comparative? For example, at 6'5", a boy is not just taller but much taller than anyone else around him. To express that in French, use beaucoup plus (much more), like this: Il est beaucoup plus grand que les autres. (He is much taller than the others.) You can also use beaucoup moins (much less). Here are a couple more examples:

Ce chapitre est beaucoup plus intéressant que le précédent. (This chapter is much more interesting than the last one.)
Nous sortons beaucoup moins cette année. (We go out a lot less this year.)
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