Should I Use Compare to or Compare with?

 

Posted by Jake Magnum | December 7, 2017 | This or That?

 

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 technology used in World War I to that 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. Thus, 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 sentence about wars above means that the writer of the article thought that the technology used in World War I were nearly identical to that used in World War II. Probably, what the writer was trying to say is that the article outlined and discussed what kinds of technology the two wars had in common and, also, what kinds of new technology were used in World War II but not in World War I. To express this, the sentence should read, “The article compared the technology used in World War I with that used in World War II.”