It’s nowhere near as good: modifying comparisons

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about how to form comparatives and superlatives. However, there are many occasions when we don’t simply want to say that one person or thing has more or less of a particular quality than another: we want to say how much more or less they have. That is when we need to modify our comparisons.

The most common way to talk about big differences is by using the word much: My pizza’s much bigger than yours. This book is much more interesting. We use far or a lot in the same way: My new computer is far smaller than my old one. It’s a lot less expensive to travel by bus. Very much or a good deal are slightly more formal: He seems very much happier now. Her new job is a good deal more demanding.

For small differences, we often use slightly: I feel slightly less nervous now. A bit is used in the same way but is slightly informal, while a little is more formal: Could you be a bit more careful, please? We started to go a little faster.

We also use not much to show small differences: She’s not much taller than you. Not any or no are used to show that there is no difference at all: He isn’t any more popular than his brother. Her laptop’s no better than mine. If a difference is surprising because the first thing already has a lot of the quality you want to describe, use even: The mountains are even higher here!

To compare two people or things that have the same amount of a particular quality we can also use as … as: My brother’s as tall as my dad. We often add just if we want to emphasize a similarity: Women are just as good at science as men. To talk about things that are almost, but not exactly, the same, we often use roughly, about or more or lessIt was roughly as big as a football. The tree’s about as high as the top of the building. The movie was more or less as bad as I’d expected.

If the first person or thing has less of that quality, we use not as: I’m not as intelligent as my sister. If the difference is small, we can say not quite as, and if it large, we can say not nearly as or nowhere near as: Her hair isn’t quite as long as Jenny’s. This apartment’s not nearly as big as Ollie’s. These cookies are nowhere near as good as the ones you make.

Finally, although we don’t usually modify superlatives because they already describe the largest possible amount of a quality, we can emphasize them with easily or by far: He’s easily the richest person I know. It’s by far the best restaurant in the city.

19 thoughts on “It’s nowhere near as good: modifying comparisons

  1. Zhadyra

    Useful article for english learners. I found it intresting and good to refresh knowledge about these forms. Thanks a lot!

  2. Lars R

    I thought that litotes might come up in this article – seems to be popular at present in America, albeit often with a sarcastic overtone. i.e. “That was less than ideal.”

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