French comparative sentences are ones in which you compare two things by saying one is more or less to a certain degree. For example, My sister is taller than I am' is a comparative sentence in English. To say the same thing in French, one would say: ma sœur est plus grande que moi''.
Adjectives for Comparing
Some adjectives are more often used for comparison than others. For example, adjectives to compare people are often used in French comparative sentences. The following adjectives are very common for describing people (and animals, houses, and other common things).
- grand(e): tall
- petit(e): small
- beau/belle: beautiful
- laid(e): ugly
- charmant(e): charming
- faible: weak
- gentil(le): nice
- jeune: young
- intelligent(e): intelligent, clever
- mignon(ne): cute
- sportif(ve): sporty/athletic
French Comparative Constructions
Using the above adjectives, it's easy to compare two things or two people. You can compare two people this way, compare two houses this way, or you can even compare properties that are changing, such as saying someone's house is plus charmante que l'année dernière (more charming than it was last year). In addition, you can compare two properties in the same person, as in elle est plus intelligente que belle (she's more intelligent than she is pretty). There are three possible types of comparisons to make: more than, less than, or equal to.
In order to express that one thing or person is more something than another, you use the French comparison: plus adjective que. In practice, this could look like plus belle que… or plus sportif que….
To say the opposite of being 'more than', the construction with 'less than' can be used. For example, you might say il est moins laid que je pensais (He's not as ugly as I thought). Translated word-for-word, the French sentence is 'he is less ugly than I thought'.
Lastly, two people or things can be equally pretty, ugly, or tall, which requires the French comparative aussi que or autant de…que. For example, you might say Il est aussi sportif que sa mère (He's as sporty as his mother). Note that aussi que is much more common than autant de. Aussi que is used with properties (essentially, things that can't be counted, such as prettiness or sportiness), while autant de is used with things that can be counted. For example: Elle a autant de cousins que moi (She has as many cousins as I do).
French Comparative Sentences with Adjectives
Some examples of French comparatives are heard very often in schools:
- Il est moins intelligent qu'on pense (He's less intelligent than people think).
- Elle est aussi intelligente que lui (She's as intelligent as he is).
- Ce jeune étudiant est plus intelligent que son frère aîné (This young student is more intelligent than his older brother.
Among friends, the following sentences may be common:
- Elle est plus belle que… (She is more beautiful than…)
- Elle est aussi mignonne que sa sœur (She's as cute as her sister).
- Il est plus petit que sa mère (He is smaller than his mother).
In addition to learning these actual constructions for comparative sentences in French, remember that when you use adjectives that they have to agree with the person or object they describe in gender and number. This is why ladies are plus belle and gentlemen are plus beau and a classroom of students are plus intelligents than a single student who is moins intelligent.
Comparative Sentences with Nouns
As mentioned in the description of autant de, comparisons can be made not just with adjectives and adverbs, but also with nouns. How do you say that you have more books than your brother? That would be: J'ai plus de livres que mon frère. Or perhaps you want to describe the trees and flowers around a neighbor's house (as compared to your own): Ils ont moins d'arbres et de fleurs que chez nous.
Sorting out the adjectives, adverbs and nouns is a great start to mastering comparative constructions. Pretty soon you'll be thinking that comparatives are one of the easiest types of sentences you can possibly make in French.