Making comparisons is a common component of scientific writing. We analyze two or more things in relation to each other to note similarities or differences as a way of contextualizing and understanding results. In English, “compare” or “compared” is often accompanied by the preposition “to” or “with.” Both are grammatically correct, so how do we know which one to use? Hint: The answer has to do with whether the emphasis is on the similarities or the differences between the items being compared.
Test your knowledge. Which preposition would you use for the examples below?
- Compared Labradors, Poodles require more grooming.
- The Beagle’s intelligence level is not high compared that of other hunting dog breeds.
- The children playing and wrestling in the yard were compared young puppies.
Here’s the scoop:
- If your purpose is to draw attention to the differences between elements that are basically of the same type or category, use compare with.
Compared with Labradors, Poodles require more grooming.
The Beagle’s intelligence level is not high compared with that of other hunting dog breeds.
- If your purpose is to show similarities between elements that are basically of a different type or classification, use compare to.
The children playing and wrestling in the yard were compared to young puppies.
Famous example from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
Chances are the kind of comparisons you’re making in your research article serve to point out the differences between items of the same type; for example, comparing the effects of one drug with another drug, comparing the elasticity of two materials, or comparing the results of a test group with the control group. Whether you write “compared with” or “compared to,” your meaning will still be understood; however, compared with will be appreciated by editors as the correct choice.