Comparative Adverbs

French comparative adverbs
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Adverbes comparatifs

Comparative adverbs are used to compare the relative superiority or inferiority of two or more things. This superior lesson will keep you from getting an inferiority complex. 😉

There are three types of comparisons:

1) Superiority indicates that something is "___er" (bigger, faster, stronger) or "more ___" (more purple, more tired, more important). The French equivalent is plus ___.

2) Inferiority indicates that something is "less ___" (less hungry, less exciting, less complete). The French equivalent is moins ___.

3) Equality indicates that two or more things are "as ___" (as happy, as thirsty, as interesting). The French equivalents are aussi and autant.

The grammar involved in using comparative adverbs is slightly different depending on whether you’re comparing adjectives, adverbs, nouns, or verbs.

Comparing Adjectives

The simplest comparison is with adjectives: just put plus, moins, or aussi in front of the adjective. The comparative itself is invariable, but, as always, the adjective has to agree with its noun in gender and number.

a) Compare two nouns with one adjective

Cet arbre est plus grand.   This tree is taller.
Ta voiture est moins bruyante.   Your car is less noisy.
Ils sont aussi contents.   They’re just as happy.

In the above examples, the comparison is implied – there’s some antecedent that these comparatives are referring back to. When there is no antecedent, you need que after the adjective, followed by the other noun or pronoun you’re comparing to.

Cet arbre est plus grand que l’autre.   This tree is taller than the other one.
Ta voiture est moins bruyante que la mienne.   Your car is less noisy than mine.
Ils sont aussi contents que moi.   They’re as happy as I am.

 Note that in the final example, the stressed pronoun is required in French, whereas the subject pronoun is used in English.

b) Compare two adjectives in relation to one noun

Tu es aussi intelligente que belle.   You’re as smart as (you are) beautiful.
Je suis plus curieux que courageux.   I’m more curious than (I am) brave.

c) Compare an adjective over time

Je suis moins sportif qu’avant.   I’m less athletic than before.
Il est plus obsédé que jamais.   He’s more obsessed than ever.

 The adjectives bon and mauvais have special comparative forms: meilleur and pire. More about this in a future lesson.

Comparing Adverbs

Comparing adverbs is much the same, but you don’t have to worry about agreement, since adverbs are invariable. Once again, there are three types of comparisons.

a) Compare two nouns with one adverb

Il parle plus lentement que moi.   He speaks more slowly than I (do).
Elle pleure moins souvent que sa sœur.   She cries less often than her sister.
Je travaille aussi dur que toi.   I work as hard as you do.

b) Compare two adverbs in relation to one noun

Tu écris plus vite que correctement.   You write more quickly than (you do) correctly.
Il mange aussi sainement qu’abondamment.   He eats as healthily as (he does) copiously.

c) Compare an adverb over time

Je cours plus lentement qu’hier.   I’m running more slowly than (I was) yesterday.
Elle étudie moins souvent qu’avant.   She studies less often than before.

 The adverb bien has a special comparative form: mieux.

Comparing Nouns

When comparing the quantity of nouns, the comparative adverbs are somewhat different:

  • Superiority = plus de
  • Inferiority = moins de
  • Equality = autant de

a) Compare a noun between two subjects

J’ai plus d’idées que toi.   I have more ideas than you.
Tu fais moins d’erreurs que moi.   You make fewer errors than I (do).
Elle a écrit autant de livres que son père.   She’s written as many books as her father.

b) Compare two (or more) nouns for one subject/verb

Il y a moins de pommes que d’oranges.   There are fewer apples than oranges.
J’ai plus d’idées que de temps ou d’énergie.   I have more ideas than time or energy.

 Note that de must be repeated in front of each noun being compared.

c) Compare a noun over time

Il y a moins de travail que la semaine dernière.   There’s less work than (there was) last week.
Je bois autant d’eau que jamais.   I drink as much water as ever.

Comparing Verbs

When comparing verbs, the comparative adverbs are slightly different again:

  • Superiority = plus que
  • Inferiority = moins que
  • Equality = autant que

a) Compare a verb between two subjects

Je travaille plus que ma sœur.   I work more than my sister (does).
Il étudie moins que toi.   He studies less than you.
Nous mangeons autant que nos enfants.   We eat as much as our children.

 Note the word order: the comparative adverb goes after the verb.

b) Compare two verbs

Je lis plus que je ne regarde la télé.   I read more than I watch TV.
Anne chante autant qu’elle parle.   Anne sings as much as she speaks.

Notes

  • The subject must be repeated in front of the second verb.
  • Ne explétif is required with plus and moins.

c) Compare a verb over time

Je travaille plus maintenant.   I work more now.
Elle étudie moins qu’avant.   She studies less than before.

En résumé

    Superiority Inferiority Equality
Adjectives   plus (… que) moins (… que) aussi (… que)
Adverbs   plus (… que) moins (… que) aussi (… que)
Nouns   plus de moins de autant de
Verbs   plus que moins que autant que

 Related lessons

French lesson plans French lesson plans

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French comparatives

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16 Responses

  1. vikingrunnergirl 30 April 2018 / 21:47

    I was watching a movie in French the other day, and noticed that I was understanding more than I had expected to. So I tried to figure out how to say that in French, got as far as “je comprende plus que…” and then realised I didn’t know how to handle the part after ‘que’. I looked through this page, and a few other resources, but I’m still unclear. What would be the way to say “I’m understanding more than I’d expected”?

    • lkl 4 May 2018 / 1:59

      This is a particularly tricky sentence because of the verb “to expect,” which is s’attendre à, as in Je m’attends à voir les résultats.

      When it’s followed by a clause, you need the indefinite relative ce que: Je m’attends à ce que tu fasses tes devoirs.

      Then, when you turn it into a subordinate clause, à ce que becomes ce à quoi, thus:

      Je comprends plus que ce à quoi je m’attendais.

  2. Kevin Cohen 13 September 2016 / 21:37

    Can you help me with this? It came in an email…

    C’est dur d’autant plus que je n’ai plus de clopes…

    • lkl 14 September 2016 / 2:05

      C’est dur = It’s hard
      d’autant plus que = all the more so because
      je n’ai plus de clopes = I don’t have any more cigarettes

  3. Kevin Cohen 13 September 2016 / 21:08

    I’ve been hunting for an actual example of “moins que X ne VERBE,” like

    Je lis moins que je ne regarde la télé. I read less than I watch TV.

    …but I can’t find one. I looked in two parallel corpora, and searched Twitter. Lots of A moins que… (unless), but no moins que (less than + verb). Am I putting this together incorrectly?

    • Kevin Cohen 26 September 2016 / 15:09

      Is my “moins que je ne regarde” example OK, at any rate?

      • lkl 26 September 2016 / 17:40

        Yes, sorry, missed this one – your example is fine, the construction is fine.

  4. Kevin Cohen 13 September 2016 / 20:50

    To say that someone does something “better than they used to,” would you say something like this?

    Elle étudie mieux qu’avant. She studies less often than before.

    I searched a couple parallel corpora for “mieux qu’avant,” but I didn’t find a single example in hundreds of millions of words, so I wonder if I got this wrong…

    • lkl 14 September 2016 / 1:58

      >>Elle étudie mieux qu’avant. She studies less often than before.

      Yes, the French is fine, if a bit odd with étudier – I think I’d say plus efficacement.

      You’re going to love this site: Mieux qu’avant

      (Your English translation “studies less often” threw me. That’s moins souvent qu’avant.)

  5. Kevin Cohen 13 September 2016 / 20:34

    Regarding this example:

    Je suis moins sportif qu’avant. I’m less athletic than before.

    …would it be OK to say something closer to English “…than I used to be,” like “Je suis moins sportif que je n’étais,” or is that too much of a direct translation, and not as natural as “qu’avant”?

    • lkl 14 September 2016 / 1:55

      Sure, that’s ok, though I feel like it kind of leaves the listener hanging – “than I was when?”

      Also, it introduces the ne explétif, which not everyone is ready for. 🙂

  6. Kevin Cohen 13 September 2016 / 20:26

    Can you help me understand when to pronounce the S in “plus,” and when not to?

    …and when to voice it? E.g., how about in “Il est plus obsédé que jamais”? Plu(s)? PluS? PluZ?

    • lkl 14 September 2016 / 1:51

      The short answer is that you don’t pronounce the s when plus is followed by an adverb or adjective, as in plus cher, or when it’s negative, as in je n’ai plus d’argent. You do pronounce it when it’s positive followed by a noun or verb: Il y a plus de gens ici. That covers most cases, but this really needs a lesson to do it justice.

      When it’s followed by a vowel, it’s always pronounced [plyz].

      • Kevin Cohen 26 September 2016 / 15:02

        Do I understand correctly that this rule:

        > When it’s followed by a vowel, it’s always pronounced [plyz].

        …overrides this rule:

        >The short answer is that you don’t pronounce the s when plus is followed by an adverb or adjective

        …and so it’s

        Il est pluZ obsédé que jamais

        ??