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:
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)
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)
People compared her to Elizabeth Taylor.
does not compare