Should I Use “Compare to” or “Compare with?”
People tend to use compare to regardless of the context in which the phrase is written, and so they sometimes make the mistake of using compare to when they should use compare with. Take a look at the following incorrect usage of compare to:
“The article compared the weapons used in World War I to those used in World War II.”
This sentence is grammatically correct, but it doesn’t mean what it was likely intended to mean. To compare one thing to another means to say that Thing A is similar enough to Thing B that Thing B can represent Thing A. The use of compare to is usually metaphorical, as in the famous line from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The incorrect sentence above means that the writer of the article thought that the weapons used in World War I and World War II were nearly identical to those used in World War II.
Probably, what the writer of the incorrect sentence above is trying to say is that the article outlined and discussed what the weapons used in the two wars had in common and, also, how they differed from one another. To express this, the sentence should read, “The article compared World War I with World War II.”
Jake Magnum, author of the Magnum Proofreading Tips blog, is dedicated to helping writers perfect their work. In addition to giving free advice on his blog, Jake helps writers by offering very affordable proofreading services at magnumproofreading.com.