824 - に比べて(にくらべて)

JLPT N3: に比べて(にくらべて // compared to

On the surface, に比べて seems like a pretty simple grammar point.

Meaning: "compared to"
(比べる [くらべる] = to compare)

Construction:NOUNに比べて

Example:

子供は大人に比べて体温が高い。
こども は おとな にくらべて たいおん が たかい。
Compared to adults, children have a high body temperature.
Literally: “children + は + adult + compared to + body temperature + が + high.”



Seemingly simple, yes.

And yet, I had a pretty difficult time preparing this lesson.

 



My troubles all started when I read this about に比べて in a grammar book of mine:

「~より」に言い換えることができる
「~より」 に いいかえる こと が できる
(「に比べて」is) interchangeable with「~より」
Literally: “「~より」+ に + rephrase / say in other words + こと + が + can do”


First, Rei disagreed with the above statement, saying that's not always the case (more on that later). 

Second, it seems to me that the nuances between「に比べて」and「~より」are quite different.

Consider how we might translate the following sentence:

子供は大人より体温が高い。
こども は おとな より たいおん が たかい。
Children have a higher body temperature than adults.
Literally: “children + は + adult + more than + body temperature + が + high.”



Compare that to the translation we saw earlier:

子供は大人に比べて体温が高い。
こども は おとな にくらべて たいおん が たかい。
Compared to adults, children have a high body temperature.
Literally: “children + は + adult + compared to + body temperature + が + high.”



Aren't the nuances of these sentences a bit different?

Don't think so?

Well what about the following pair of sentences (based off an example from our lesson on ~より:[NDL #504] - JLPT N4: は~より):

花さんはに比べて若いです。
はなさん は わたし にくらべて わかい です。
Compared to me, Hana-san is young.
Literally: “Hana-san + は + I + compared to + young + です.”



花さんはより若いです。
はなさん は わたし より わかい です。
Hana-san is younger than me.
Literally: “Hana-san + は + I + more than + young + です.”



In the English sentence, "Compared to me, Hana-san is young," the nuance is that Hana-san might not be young in general. She is just "young" when compared to me. So maybe she's 65, which one might not think is young, but compared to "me" at 98, she is quite "young."

Conversely, with the sentence, "Hana-san is younger than me," we're just stating that "I" am older than Hana-san, nothing more. Maybe she's 97, and I'm 98. Maybe she's 12, and I'm 45. It doesn't matter.

Because the same appears to be true with the nuance of the Japanese sentences, it seems odd to me that a grammar book would call them interchangeable.

 



Changing nuances aside, there are situations in which replacing に比べて with より sounds quite strange.

Take the following sentence, for example:

引っ込み思案なに比べて、妹は社交的で友達が多い。
ひっこみじあんな わたし にくらべて、 いもうと は しゃこうてき で ともだち が おおい。
I’m introverted, but my little sister is extroverted and has lots of friends.
Literally: “introverted / shy / withdrawn + I + compared to, + younger sister + は + sociable / extroverted + で + friends + が + many.”



I had quite a difficult time translating this sentence. I almost translated it as: "Compared to me, an introvert, my little sister is extroverted and has lots of friends."

Ultimately, I thought that "I'm introverted, but my little sister is extroverted and has lots of friends" seemed more natural. Maybe I'm wrong.

In any case, this sounds a bit odd:

△ 引っ込み思案なより、妹は社交的で友達が多い。
△ ひっこみじあんな わたし より、 いもうと は しゃこうてき で ともだち が おおい。
△ My little sister is more extroverted and has more friends than me, an introvert.
△ Literally: “introverted / shy / withdrawn + I + more than, + younger sister + は + sociable / extroverted + で + friends + が + many.”


It sounds odd because there's no point in using より (~more than) when we are already pointing out that "I" am introverted in the first half of the sentence.

In other words, using より would sound natural if we were to remove the "introverted" part:

より、妹は社交的で友達が多い。
わたし より、 いもうと は しゃこうてき で ともだち が おおい。
My little sister is more extroverted and has more friends than me.
Literally: “I + more than, + younger sister + は + sociable / extroverted + で + friends + が + many.”



In JLPT grammar books, I think you'd be more likely to see the words arranged this way:

妹はより社交的で友達が多い。
いもうと は わたし より しゃこうてき で ともだち が おおい。
My little sister is more extroverted and has more friends than me.
Literally: “younger sister + は + I + more than, + sociable / extroverted + で + friends + が + many.”



Have I confused you yet? Because I have thoroughly confused myself.

The good news: You don't really need to worry about any of this.

For the most part, you're fine just remembering that に比べて means something like "compared to."

 



Maybe the examples teach better than I could ever hope to...

今年の梅雨は例年に比べて晴れの日が多い。
ことし の つゆ は れいねん にくらべて はれ の ひ が おおい。
This year’s rainy season has had fewer rainy days than usual. // Compared to most years, we've had more clear days (during) this year's rainy season.
Literally: “this year + の + rainy season (in Japan) + は + ordinary year + compared to + clear weather + の + day + が + many.”



Thank you, Example-sensei.

 



Last of all, note that it's also possible to say に比べ instead of に比べて

フランス語はスペイン語に比べ、発音が難しいです。
フランスご は スペインご にくらべると、 はつおん が むずかしい です。
French pronunciation is difficult compared to Spanish pronunciation.
Literally: “French (language) + は + Spanish (language) + compared to + pronunciation + が + difficult + です.”


 



Finished!