What Goes With Compare – With or To?

I love our Facebook community! Not only do I read interesting – and often hilarious – comments on our posts, but I also get ideas to write about. Sometime last week, I found the image below and shared it on Facebook.

Compare [?]


Not surprisingly, that generated some discussion. Your responses were varied:

  • I would say ‘to’ compares differences, while ‘with’ compares similarities. (Andrya Silberman)
  • The house style at my work is to use compared with when there is a single point of comparison and compared to when you are comparing something to multiple things. (Robyn Williams)
  • I use whatever falls out of my mouth. It may be regional, too. I know that I was raised in So. California saying “BY accident,” but when I was in WA State, all the natives I ever heard said “ON accident.” (Alexis Grone)

So what is the rule? Is there one? Do we say “compare with” or “compare to”?

The best thing to do is to go back to one of the most trusted writing resources – Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Here’s a quick guide to follow when using “compare”.

To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances, between objects regarded as essentially of different order; to compare with is mainly to point out differences, between objects regarded as essentially of the same order. Thus life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.

For those who are rabid fans disciples of Strunk and White, this ends the discussion.

To make it easy, I will bear this in mind: WITH is my go-to preposition if I am highlighting differences.

What is your take on this matter? Do you follow Strunk and White, or do you follow a different style guide? Share your experiences, tips, and thoughts in the comments!

Comments

  1. Frank says

    I believe you could make an argument that Modern Paris could be compared to AND with Ancient Athens, and still follow the definition given by Strunk and White.

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  1. […] I love our Facebook community! Not only do I read interesting – and often hilarious – comments on our posts, but I also get ideas to write about. Sometime last week, I found the image below and shared it on Facebook. Not surprisingly, that generated some discussion. Your responses were varied: I would say ‘to’ compares differences, while ‘with’ compares similarities. (Andrya Silberman) The house style at my work is to use compared with when there is a single point of comparison and compared to when you are comparing something to multiple things. (Robyn Williams) I use whatever falls out [Read more…] […]

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