I wonder how many times we use a comparative structure in a day? More often than we would imagine.
You already know the basic structure about when to add -er to the end of an adjective and when to put ‘more’ before the adjective (although, like many native English speakers, you may wonder whether one says ‘more clever’ or ‘cleverer’, but you instinctively know one says ‘more boring’).
That is all well and good, but there are times when you want to point out the size of the difference between one thing and another. For example, a statement like:
Desigual is more expensive than Primark
is very true, but it doesn’t get the full idea across about the huge difference in the prices. It would be more informative to say:
Desigual is much more expensive/far more expensive than Primark
In colloquial English people also say ‘way more expensive‘.
And the other way round:
Primark is far/much cheaper than Desigual
Of course, if there is not much difference in prices you can say:
Mango is a little more expensive than Zara
Zara is a little cheaper than Mango
Colloquially we also say ‘a bit more expensive/a bit cheaper’.
We can also get this idea across when using the ‘as….as’ structure.
Primark isn’t as expensive as Desigual
does not tell you as much as:
Primark isn’t nearly as expensive as Desigual (no es ni mucho menos tan caro como…)
Colloquially, people say ‘not half as‘.
Again, if the difference is not massive you can say:
Zara is not quite as expensive as Mango
So this information will help you in an FCE exam if you come across the following transformation sentence:
The shopping mall is much more crowded at the weekend than on a weekday.
The shopping centre is not ____________________weekday as at the weekend.
If the words you put in the gap are:
as crowded on a
you will only get one point, whereas if you put:
nearly as crowded on a
you will get the two points.
Another place where this information will come in handy is in the gapfill exercise (open cloze). You may see a sentence like:
…and of course a male bear is _______ bigger than a female, so she has to keep a very close eye on her cubs…
The sentence makes perfect sense without any additional word so it is quite hard to imagine what can go in the gap, especially when you are under pressure. The missing word here is, of course, ‘much‘ or ‘far‘.
A quick word on superlatives. This sentence may be true:
The Taj Mahal is the best Indian restaurant in my city
but so might this:
The Taj Majal is by far the best Indian restaurant in my city (el mejor, con diferencia)
In a transformation sentence you might find:
No form of transport is nearly as convenient for getting around town as the bike.
The bike is ________________________ form of transport for getting around town.
The missing words are:
by far the most convenient
And in the gapfill:
…Victoria is _______ far the busiest tube station in London so visitors should certainly try to avoid it at rush hour…
The missing word is ‘by’. (Read the context carefully, as the expression ‘so far’ exists, but of course would not be logical in the above example)
When doing any kind of writing exercise try to use a variety of comparisons (not as…as, less than, more than, the most/least…) and always bear in mind if you are writing a formal or an informal piece.
Any questions? Just ask…