Meilleur vs Mieux

Bon vs bien
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French Foes

The French words meilleur and mieux can be tricky for French students because they are the comparative/superlative forms of the oft-confused words bon and bien, respectively. This lesson is your best bet for gaining a better understanding of this confusing pair.

 First things first: if you don’t understand the difference between bon and bien, you’re not going to make much progress with meilleur vs mieux, so be sure you’ve mastered that lesson before attempting this one.

1) Adjectives

Just as bon is more often used as an adjective than bien, meilleur is more often a comparative / superlative adjective than mieux. Meilleur serves to describe a noun as "better" as in more valid, higher quality, more useful, etc., and le meilleur means "the best" as in most valid, highest quality, etc.

Par exemple…

C’est une meilleure idée.   That’s a better idea.
C’est la meilleure idée.   That’s the best idea.
Le café est meilleur qu’hier.   The coffee is better than yesterday.
C’est le meilleur café du monde.   It’s the best coffee in the world.

When mieux, the comparative of bien, is an adjective, it’s used with copular (state-of-being) verbs and means "better" along the lines of sense of more moral, satisfying, healthy, or attractive.

Ce serait mieux si tu faisais la cuisine.   It would be better for you to cook.
On est mieux ici.   We’re more comfortable here.

The superlative le mieux is not used as an adjective.

2) Adverbs

As an adverb, mieux takes the lead as an adverb of manner:

Ça va mieux ?   Are you (feeling) better?
Elle va le mieux.   She is doing the best.
Il s’entend mieux avec les enfants.   He gets along better with children.
Je m’entends le mieux avec les ados.   I get along the best with teens.

With sentir and impersonal faire, meilleur is an adverb meaning "nicer, more pleasant, better":

Il fait meilleur dehors.   It’s nicer outside.
Il fait le meilleur au soleil.   It’s nicest in the sun.
La pizza sent meilleur.   The pizza smells better.
Le dessert sent le meilleur !   Dessert smells the best!

3) Nouns

Le meilleur means "the best" (person, story, part …)

Cette option est la meilleure.   This option is the best.
Que le meilleur gagne !   May the best person win!
Garder le meilleur pour la fin.   To save the best for last.

Le mieux refers to an abstract "best":

Le mieux serait que tu fasses las cuisine.   It would be best for you to cook.
Il fait pour le mieux.   He’s doing what he thinks is best.
Fais ton mieux.   Do your best.

 Note that meilleur, like the adjective bon, agrees with the nouns it modifies in gender and number in both the comparative and superlative. In contrast, mieux has only a singular form in the comparative, and in the superlative only the definite article changes to agree with the noun.*

Meilleur   Mieux
comparative meilleur meilleurs   mieux
  meilleure meilleures      
superlative le meilleur les meilleurs   le mieux les mieux
  la meilleure les meilleures   la mieux

 * Also note that these different forms are only used when meilleur / mieux are used as adjectives or nouns, as in sections one and three. When they are adverbs, they remain in the masculine singular default form.

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Meilleur vs mieux

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