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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The subject must be repeated in front of the second verb.