A friend of mine recently had to look up whether she should write ‘compared with’ or ‘compared to’ in a sentence and suggested I might want to write a post about it – and I’m glad she did! I didn’t realise there was a difference at first, but after a bit of research, it makes a lot of sense. Keep reading for a quick and simple guide to distinguish the two.
Seemingly the more common usage, ‘compared to’ simply means to demonstrate the similarities between two or more things. For example, if I say, ‘When comparing my son’s hair to mine, it’s clear his color comes from me.’ In this case, I’m illustrating that my son and I share the same hair color, thus I use ‘compar[ed] to’. Note in my example that ‘comparing’ is separate from ‘to’ (I italicized them to make them clearer to locate). The preposition does not necessarily need to immediately proceed the word ‘compare’, but the same rule applies regarding similarities.
If ‘compared to’ is for similarities, that would mean ‘compared with’ is for differences. Let’s see how it works when I tweak my above example a bit: ‘Although my son gets his hair color from me, when compared with my hair, his is much thicker.’ Here, I keep the preposition beside ‘compared’, but I note that the texture of his hair is thicker–and thus different–than my own.
If you have trouble remembering the differences, it may be beneficial to think of ‘compare to’ as ‘to liken’. Hope this helps, and thanks for reading! 😀