Basic comparisons with "bi"
- 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.
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 比 小张 高 。Xiao Li is taller than Xiao Zhang.
小李 (Xiǎo Lǐ) is taller. The same situation could be described as
- 小张 比 小李 矮 。Xiao Zhang is shorter than Xiao Li.
- 他 比 老师 聪明 。He is smarter than the teacher.
- 上海 比 纽约 大 吗 ？Is Shanghai bigger than New York?
- 她 比 她 妈妈 漂亮 。She is prettier than her mother.
- 星巴克 的 咖啡 比 这里 的 咖啡 贵 。The coffee at Starbucks is more expensive than the coffee here.
- 地铁 比 公交车 方便 。The subway is more convenient than the bus.
Try not to make these mistakes:
The adjective used in the comparison should be positive, not negative.
- 我 比 你 不 聪明 。I am not smarter than you. (incorrect)
- 你 比 我 聪明 。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.
- 我 比 你 一样 聪明 。I am as smart as you. (incorrect)
- 我 跟 你 一样 聪明 。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!
Noun 1 + 比 + Noun 2 + 更 + Adj.
The only new thing here is the addition of 更 (gèng) before the adjective.
- 小李 比 小张 更 高 。Xiao Li is even taller than Xiao Zhang.
The implication is that while Xiao Zhang is tall, 小李 (Xiǎo lǐ) is even taller.
- 我 哥哥 比 我 更 高 。My big brother is even taller than me.
- 你 男朋友 比 我男朋友 更 帅 。Your boyfriend is even more handsome than mine.
- 这里 的 冬天 比 纽约 的 冬天 更 冷 。The winter here is even colder than it is in New York.
- 中文 语法 比 汉字 更 难 。Chinese grammar is even more difficult than Chinese characters.
- 你的 问题 比 我的 问题 更 麻烦。Your problem is even more troublesome than mine.
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
- Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar (pp. 61-3) →buy
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (p. 53) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 2 (新实用汉语课本2) (pp. 65-6) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 1, Part 2 (3rd ed) (pp. 6-8) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (新实用汉语课本3) (pp. 184-5) →buy
- Yale Chinese Usage Dictionary: Usage of 跟 and 比