Compare & Contrast – Things we find difficult – part 3

The difference between the verbs ‘to compare’ and ‘to contrast’ seems to have caused some heated debate. Probably more than it should. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the perenial potato debate. Which do you prefer? Sweet potatoes or old fashioned regular potatoes? Or how about yams? Surely a discussion about potatoes couldn’t cause so much argument, could it?

Let’s look at the meaning of ‘to contrast’ first because it’s easier to understand:

contrast verb

C2 [ T ]to compare two people or things in order to show thedifferences between them:

If you contrast some of her early writing with her later work, you can see just how much she improved.

 

C2 [ I ]If one thing contrasts with another, it is very different from it:

The styles of the two film makers contrast quite dramatically.
The tartness of the lemons contrasts with the sweetness of the honey.
So the potatoes are rounder, and obviously, the sweet potatoes are ummm sweeter. I’m not doing very well here….
Cleveland Health Clinic explain that, “Sweet potatoes provide 400% of your daily requirement of vitamin A. They also have more vitamin C, fewer calories, more fibre and fewer total carbs than white potatoes, despite more sugar. But don’t forget white potatoes — they’re more versatile in cooking and less expensive.
So that’s the contrast sorted. Fine. We’re happy with that. One is usually white the other is usually orange. Contrast! Easy… So, to compare:

compare verb [ T ] (EXAMINE DIFFERENCES)

B1 to examine or look for the difference between two or more things:

If you compare house prices in the two areas, it’s quite amazing how different they are.
That seems expensive – have you compared prices in other shops?
Compare some recent work with your older stuff and you’ll see how much you’ve improved.
This road is quite busy compared to/with ours
But – we also use ‘to compare’ – to talk about similarities and to decide which thing is better. We can make chips out of potatoes and sweet potatoes; the taste is different but overall I prefer regular potatoes:

compare verb [ T ] (CONSIDER SIMILARITIES)

to judge, suggest, or consider that something is similar or of equal quality to something else:

The poet compares his lover’s tongue to a razor blade.
Still only 25, she has been compared to the greatest dancer of all time.
People compared her to Elizabeth Taylor.
You can’t compare the two cities – they’re totally different.

does not compare

 

If something or someone does not compare with something or someone else, the second thing is very much better than the first:

Instant coffee just doesn’t compare with freshly ground coffee.

compare favourably

 

If something compares favourably with something else, it is better than it:

The hotel certainly compared favourably with the one we stayed in last year.
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