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Basic comparisons with "bi"

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Also known as: 比字句 (bǐ zì jù).

One of the most common words when comparing things in Chinese is to use 比 (bǐ). 比 (bǐ) has similarities to the English word "than," but it requires a word order that's not so intuitive, so you'll want to practice it quite a bit.

Basic Pattern Using 比 (bǐ)

You could think of 比 (bǐ) as meaning "than," except that it sits between the two things being compared. The word order will take a little getting used to, but aside from that, the pattern is quite easy.

Structure

To say that one thing is more adjective than another, the structure is:

Noun 1 + 比 + Noun 2 + Adj.

The noun that's placed first is the one that comes out on top in the comparison. So in the sentence:

  • 小李 小张 Xiǎo Lǐ Xiǎo Zhāng gāo .Xiao Li is taller than Xiao Zhang.

小李 (Xiǎo Lǐ) is taller. The same situation could be described as

  • 小张 小李 Xiǎo Zhāng Xiǎo Lǐ ǎi .Xiao Zhang is shorter than Xiao Li.

Examples

  • 老师 聪明 lǎoshī cōngming. He is smarter than the teacher.
  • 上海 纽约 吗 ?Shànghǎi Niǔyuē ma? Is Shanghai bigger than New York?
  • 她 妈妈 漂亮 tā māma piàoliang . She is prettier than her mother.
  • 星巴克 的 咖啡 这里 的 咖啡 Xīngbākè de kāfēi zhèlǐ de kāfēi guì. The coffee at Starbucks is more expensive than the coffee here.
  • 地铁 公交车 方便Dìtiě gōngjiāochē fāngbiàn. The subway is more convenient than the bus.

Common Errors

Try not to make these mistakes:

The adjective used in the comparison should be positive, not negative.

  • 不 聪明bù cōngming .I am not smarter than you. (incorrect)
  • 聪明cōngming .You are smarter than me. (correct)

比 (bǐ) is not used with 一样 (yīyàng). 比 (bǐ) is used when two things are not the same.

  • 一样 聪明 。yīyàng cōngming.I am as smart as you. (incorrect)
  • 一样 聪明 。gēnyīyàng cōngming.I am as smart as you. (correct)

Pattern Using 比 and 更 (gèng)

This is a slight upgrade of the basic 比 (bǐ) comparison pattern, adding in 更 (gèng) before the adjective. 更 (gèng) means "even more," so the idea is that while one thing is already quite [adjective], this other thing is even more [adjective]. Pretty simple!

Structure

Noun 1 + 比 + Noun 2 + 更 + Adj.

The only new thing here is the addition of 更 (gèng) before the adjective.

  • 小李 小张 更 高Xiǎo Lǐ Xiǎo Zhāng gèng gāo .Xiao Li is even taller than Xiao Zhang.

The implication is that while Xiao Zhang is tall, 小李 (Xiǎo lǐ) is even taller.

Examples

  • 我 哥哥 更 高Wǒ gēge gèng gāo. My big brother is even taller than me.
  • 你 男朋友 我男朋友 更 帅 Nǐ nánpéngyou wǒ nánpéngyou gèng shuài. Your boyfriend is even more handsome than mine.
  • 这里 的 冬天 纽约 的 冬天 更 冷Zhèlǐ de dōngtiān Niǔyuē de dōngtiān gèng lěng. The winter here is even colder than it is in New York.
  • 中文 语法 汉字 更 难Zhōngwén yǔfǎ hànzì gèng nán. Chinese grammar is even more difficult than Chinese characters.
  • 你的 问题 我的 问题 更 麻烦Nǐ de wèntí wǒ de wèntí gèng máfan. Your problem is even more troublesome than mine.

See also

Finally, to express "not as... as," use 没有, and to express "not more... than" use 不比 (the negative cousin of 比).

Check these elementary comparison patterns out as well:

When you're ready for more, we also have a good overview of comparisons in Mandarin Chinese which spans all levels.

Sources and further reading

Books

Websites