Particles # 3: Use より (+のほうが) to Make Comparisons in Japanese

Updated: Apr 13, 2021


 

When comparing two things, you can say, "A is more [adjective] than B" as either:

  • 「AのほうがBより [adjective] です」,

  • 「BよりAのほうが [adjective] です」, or

  • 「AはBより [adjective] です」.


To ask which of two things is more [adjective] than the other, you can use the sentence pattern「AとBとどちらのほうが [adjective] です」.


 

Sentence Pattern #1


A のほうが B より [adjective] です。

A no hou ga B yori [adjective] desu.


A is more [adjective] than B.


In Japanese, you do not need to conjugate adjectives when making comparisons. For example, in English, we say, "A is better than B," which involves conjugating the adjective good. The same sentence in Japanese is "AのほうがBよりいい." Notice that the adjective for good (いい) has not been altered.


This is because, in Japanese, the idea of "more than" is expressed by inserting the particle より after the noun being compared to instead of by changing the adjective.


While forming these sentences is fairly simple, trying to translate this sentence pattern directly is difficult, specifically because of the のほうが part. 「のほうが」literally means "the side of" (plus the subject-marking particle が).


The direct translation of Sentence Pattern #1, then, is "A's side, B more than, [adjective] is." Which is pretty confusing. So, when comparing two things, it is probably best to simply memorize のほうが as a set phrase that marks the "more than" thing out of the two things being compared.



Examples


夏のほうが秋より暑いです。

なつのほうがあきよりあついです。

Natsu no hou ga aki yori atsui desu.


Summer is hotter than autumn.



私はコーヒーのほうがお茶より少し好き。

わたしはコーヒーのほうがおちゃよりすこしすき。

Watashi wa ko–hi– no hou ga ocha yori sukoshi suki.


I like coffee a little more than tea.



If you are using this sentence pattern to respond to a question (see Sentence Pattern #4), you may omit the "Bより" part if you like. Your intended meaning will be obvious based on the question.



Example


A: バスと電車(でんしゃ)とどちらのほうが安い(やすい)ですか。

B: バスのほうが安いです。


A: Which one's cheaper between the bus and the train?

B: The bus is cheaper.


 

Sentence Structure #2


AはBより [adjective] です。

A wa B yori [adjective] desu.


A is more [adjective] than B.


This sentence pattern has the same meaning as Sentence Pattern #1 but is simpler and easier to remember. However, from what I can gather, Sentence Pattern #2 sounds most natural when making a statement and should not be used to respond to a question. (I found a write-up on this topic here, though it is difficult to understand.)



Example


夏は秋より暑いです。

なつはあきよりあついです。

Natsu wa aki yori atsui desu.


Summer is hotter than autumn.


 

Sentence Pattern #3


B より A のほうが [adjective] です。

B yori A no hou ga [adjective] desu.


A is more [adjective] than B.



Sentence Pattern #3 is yet another alternative to Sentence Pattern #1. You can think of these as interchangeable, though native speakers tend to use Pattern #1 more often. Pattern #3 sounds most natural when used to express disagreement with something someone else has just said using Pattern #1.



Example


A: 猫 (ねこ) のほうが犬 (いぬ) より頭 (あたま) がいい。

B: いいえ、猫より犬のほうが頭がいいよ。


A: Neko no hou ga inu yori atama ga ii.

B: Iie, neko yori inu no hou ga atama ga ii yo.


A: Cats are smarter than dogs.

B: No, dogs are smarter than cats.



To summarize this article up to this point, the meanings portrayed by Sentence Patterns #1, #2, and #3 are the same. However, one pattern might sound more natural than the others depending on what someone else has just said or asked in the conversation.


 

Sentence Pattern #4


AとBとどちらのほうが [adjective] ですか。

A to B to dochira no hou ga [adjective] desu ka.


Between A and B, which one is more [adjective]?

OR

Which is more [adjective]: A or B?



One important thing about this sentence pattern is that it cannot be used when you want to compare more than two things. This is because Japanese has two words for "which." どちら (どっち in casual speech) means "which one (out of two)," while どれ means "which one (out of three or more)."



Example


スカイダイビングとバンジージャンプとどちらのほうが危ない(あぶない)ですか。

Sukaidaibingu to banji–janpu to dochira no hou ga abunai desu ka.


Which is more dangerous: skydiving or bungee jumping?

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