Japanese Grammar

Japanese Comparison: より, …の方が, and …で一番

Comparison より

Last time, you learned how to express quotations and definitions, e.g. “ボブはほん上手うまいといた (I heard that Bob is good at Japanese).” However, if you would like to say “I heard that Bob speaks Japanese better than John,” what should you do? In this lesson, you will learn how to express comparison.

Explanation for How to Express Comparison in Japanese

Table of Contents
When Comparing Two Items
When Comparing Three Items or More
Comparison with Numerals and Adverbs

This is actually an easy topic when learning Japanese. In English, you express comparison by conjugating adjectives (like “easier”) or placing “more” before adjectives. In Japanese, you don’t have to conjugate anything. We express comparison by adding a few key words. Let’s check how it works.

When Comparing Two Items


ボブ ジョンより ほん 上手うまい(です)
Topic/Subject Target of Comparison Object of Potential Predicate
Bob is better at Japanese than John.

This is a basic sentence pattern. You first set a topic by using the particle は, then you place a target of comparison with より, which you can roughly consider as “than” in English. The order of the より part is sometimes changes, but the meaning remains the same. In the above example, we’ve used adjectives, but you can also use other parts of speech if they have degree.

ボブジョンよりはやく(およげる / およげます)。
Bob can swim faster than John.
ボブたんをジョンよりって(いる / います)。
Bob knows vocabulary more than John.
あついのさむいのよりき(だ / です)。
As for being hot, [I] like [it] more than being cold.
Being hard is more fun than being easy.

People sometimes attach も to より, but the meaning won’t change.

ボブはジョンよりはやく(およげる / およげます)。
ボブはたんをジョンよりって(いる / います)。
あついのはさむいのよりき(だ / です)。

When you use the negative form, you have to use ほど instead of より.

ボブはジョンほどたかく(ない / ありません)。
Bob is not taller than John.
ボブはジョンほど真面目まじめじゃ(ない / ありません)。
Bob is not more serious than John.

However, if there is a clear distinction, you should use affirmative sentences with the antonyms.

Bob is shorter than John.
ボブはジョンより不真面目ふまじめ(だ / です)。
Bob is less serious than John.


ボブほう ジョンより ほん 上手うまい(です)
Subject Target of Comparison Object of Potential Predicate
Bob is better at Japanese than John.

If you use the particle が, you have to place のほう after nouns. When you use adjectives, you can just place ほう after i-adjectives and なほう after na-adjectives. The example above plainly compares the ability between Bob and John. By contrast, if you use the topic particle は, it means to compare them while treating Bob as a basis.

ボブほうジョンより年上としうえ(だ / です)。
Bob is older than John.
ボブほうジョンよりいっしょう懸命けんめい勉強べんきょうして(いる / います)。
Bob is studying harder than John.
からほうあまいのよりき(だ / です)。
[I] like spicy (things) more than sweet (things).
Being lively is better than being quiet.

The difference between the two sentence patterns will appear in two situations. The first is to respond to wh-questions. For reference, when you ask, “Who is younger, Bob or John?” you have two options: ボブとジョンでは which is expressed by the combined particle (Range and Topic) and ボブとジョン which is expressed by the particle の (Explanation). The complete sentences are below.

As for Bob and John, who is younger?
Who is younger, Bob or John?

When it comes to the responses, のほうが…より is more suitable than は…より because the particle が has the function to identify something. Be careful; the …より part is often omitted.

ジョンのほうが [ボブより] 年下としした(だ / です)よ。
John is younger [than Bob].

The second situation is to make negative sentences. With the sentence pattern: のほうが…より, negative sentences don’t sound very natural. You should use affirmative sentences. The following examples express the same thing, but the one below sounds more natural.

ボブのほうがジョンより年下とししたじゃ(ない / ありません)。
=> Unnatural
ジョンのほうがボブより年下としした(だ / です)。
=> Natural


ダンは / が ジョンおなじくらい ほん 上手うまい(です)
Topic / Subject Target of Comparison Object of Potential Predicate
Dan is as good at Japanese as John.

This sentence pattern can express that there is not a difference between two items. …とおなじくらい can roughly be translated “A is as _____ as B.”

ダンはジョンとおなじくらいマンガがき(だ / です)。
Dan likes manga as much as John does.
ダンはジョンとおなじくらいゆっくり(あるく / あるきます)。
Dan walks as slowly as John does.


When Comparing Three Items or More

ボブは / が 3人さんにんなか 一番いちばん カッコいい(です)
Topic / Subject Range Adverb Predicate
Bob is coolest of the three people.

You can roughly consider this sentence pattern  (の中)で一番 as “-est” or “most” in English. Grammatically speaking, のなか should be omitted when used with nouns which indicate locations and shouldn’t be omitted when used with nouns which indicate a number or an amount. However, practically speaking, people use both of them in either situation.

わたし一番いちばんやるがあると(おもう / おもいます)。
[I] think I have the highest motivation.
ジョンが3人さんにんなか一番いちばんりょくして(いる / います)。
John is making efforts the most of the three people.
As for China, the population is largest in the world.

If you replace 一番いちばん with もっとも, your speech sounds more formal.

わたしもっとやるがあると(おもう / おもいます)。
ジョンが3人さんにんなかもっとりょくして(いる / います)。

Comparison with Numerals and Adverbs

Sushi is a little more expensive than tempura.
Sushi is 100 yen more expensive than tempura.

This expression is applicable when comparing two items. By placing numerals or adverbs just before predicates, you can express comparison in detail.

Advanced Topic: Three Differences in Nuance

Suppose that Sushi costs $101 and Tempura costs $100. We believe that the prices are really high. Then, we can say that there are three different points of view.

  1. Plainly compare the two items without considering the high prices.
  2. Although both of them are expensive, Sushi is more expensive.
  3. Although both of them are not cheap, Tempura is cheaper.

The reason we’ve categorized them in this way is because you have to use different adverbs depending on the point of view. The following adverbs are typical ones for the usages.

  1. 寿司すしてんぷらよりすこたかい。=> No indication
  2. 寿司すしてんぷらより もっとさらに たかい。=> Indicates both are expensive
  3. てんぷらは寿司すしよりまだやすい。 => Indicates both are not cheap


  1. は…より(も) compares two items while treating one of them as a basis.
  2. ほうが…より(も) compares two items without a basis.
  3. …とおなじくらい expresses A is as _____ as B.
  4. …(のなか)で一番いちばん expresses “-est” or “most.”

Although we have explained how to express comparison so far, there is actually no new grammar for you. If you know the usage of Japanese adverbs and numerals, our explanation should come easily to you. Now, you know how Japanese comparison works. Next, you will learn expressions related to numbers and amounts like “only” and “too much.”

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