Comparisons Are Easy

“Better than,” “as good as,” “rather than”: These kinds of comparisons often appear in police and corrections reports. The good news is that they’re useful expressions, easy to write and understand.

The bad news is…well, maybe it’s not really bad news. But there are some pitfalls to watch for when you’re making comparisons.

You need to remember that our English language is often concerned with the numbers two and three:

Use -er comparisons (better, faster, older, and similar words) when you’re comparing two people or things. (The word worse and phrases beginning with more also fall into this category.)

Use -est words when you’re comparing three or more people or things. (The word best and phrases beginning with most also fall into this category.)

Sound complicated? It really isn’t. Take a look at these examples:

Officer Kaplan has been with the agency longer than Officer Brown. CORRECT  (comparing two people)

Officer Morgan is the most experienced officer on the force. CORRECT  (comparing three or more people)

If you’d spent some time riding with Larry and Tom, you’d know that Larry is the better driver.  CORRECT  (comparing two people)

Let’s use an everyday example that might make the rule more clear. You can’t be the worst child in your family unless your parents had at least three children.

If there are only two children, you’re the worse child. (Or, hopefully, the better one!) Best, worst, most, and so on require three or more people or things.

The second pointer is that you should use than (not then) in comparisons.

I’d rather work on Saturday than Sunday. CORRECT

Alan is usually more thorough than she is. CORRECT

One last point (and it’s an important one): When you’re writing a comparison sentence, be extra-careful with pronouns (he, she, I, we, and so on).

Take a look at the last example. Many people would (incorrectly) write it this way:

Alan is usually more thorough than her. INCORRECT

If you add one more word (“is,” in this sentence), you’ll get the sentence right every time:

Alan is usually more thorough than she is. CORRECT

Try this one:

Officer Langan writes as well as (I, me).

Add the extra word (“do”), and it’s easy to finish the sentence:

Officer Langan writes as well as I do.

Not difficult at all!



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