If you want to improve your English and give yourself a good shot at success in the TOEFL writing test, then you certainly need to be able to use comparatives. This is because comparative structures are really common in English, particularly when it comes to formal writing. Yes, they do appear in informal spoken language all the time, but they are even more useful for things like academic essay writing. As such, they should be part of any TOEFL candidate’s grammatical arsenal. If you want to give yourself a good chance of TOEFL excellence, then you should follow the advice below and learn how to use comparatives.
What is a Comparative?
Comparative is related to the verb “compare,” which means to show how similar or different two things are. As such, they are very useful in descriptions of items or ideas. In fact, you can find comparative forms in most types of English.
Take the word “good” for example. I could say that “supermarkets are good.” But does that really tell the reader or listener much important information? No, it doesn’t. I need to bring some ideas together in order to improve this, and I can do that with a comparative.
First of all, the comparative form of “good” is “better.” I can use it like this:
- Supermarkets are better than local stores.
This is more descriptive than the first example, but it could be improved. If I want to give more information about these two types of business, I can add in some more comparatives to develop the sentence further:
- Supermarkets are better than local stores because they offer more choices and lower
In this sentence, we have taken two things (supermarkets and local stores) and we have compared them in three different ways, the second two basically developing the first one. This is an intelligent and logical way of explaining differences.
How to Use Comparatives
Comparatives are formed by taking an adjective and then finding its comparative form. In the previous example, I took the comparative form of “good” which is “better.” Sometimes there is no change to the adjective when it takes its comparative form, and instead we have to say “more + adjective” or “less + adjective.” This is true in particular of longer adjectives; for example, “more expensive” or “less interesting.”
You can then try to compare two items by using “than” after the comparative adjective. You can see that in the following examples:
- Online commerce is more lucrative than traditional brick and mortar shop ownership.
- The field of internet marketing is bigger than it used to be.
- Young people are more interested in careers in digital marketing than you might think.
Sometimes we don’t need to state the two options when one of them is already implicitly stated. This may be because we want to avoid repetition due to the idea having already been given in the sentence or a previous sentence:
- Electric cars are better for the environment. (=than petrol-powered cars)
- Solar energy is cheaper (=than it used to be) thanks to advancements in the underlying technology.
In these cases, we don’t need to say “than” because the other idea is already implied.
In some rare cases, the typical structure for giving a comparative is inverted and we show that one thing is dependent upon another by using two comparatives. This is more likely to be used in the TOEFL speaking test than the writing test because it is a little less formal. You can see how it is used in the following two examples:
- The more successful a company becomes, the more people want to invest in it.
- The bigger a movie franchise grows, the less comfortable its original fans feel.
Finally, comparative structures don’t only show one thing as being more or less than something else. They can be used to show that two things are roughly equal. To do this requires a quite different structure, using “as + adjective + as”. We can see how that works in the following examples:
- Nowadays, Tesla’s cars are as affordable as Honda’s.
- I think that in the future, vocational schools will be as respected as
In each of those two examples, the adjective applies equally to both noun, thereby showing that the comparative structure can highlight things being equal as well as more or less than each other.
Using Comparatives in TOEFL Writing
Let’s take a look at a TOEFL writing task:
- It has recently been announced that a large shopping center may be built in your neighborhood. Do you support or oppose this plan? Why? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.
What sort of language would be needed to answer this question? Well, we could certainly use comparatives to weigh the merits and drawbacks of large shopping centers, comparing them with local stores.
We might say something like:
- Large shopping centers can provide local consumers with a greater range of products at lower prices than smaller stores, but they lack the personal touch that you find in these traditional shops. Owners of small stores tend to be friendlier and more helpful than the staff of big supermarkets.
Here, you can see there are five comparative adjectives put into just two sentences. This helps draw attention to the key differences between the two main ideas expressed in the question. This sort of language can be used in any TOEFL writing task, and being able to use it accurately can really help you to score highly in terms of grammar. Therefore, it is really important that you familiarize yourself with the rules of comparative language before you sit your next exam.
If you feel that your comparative language is not up to par, you may want to try our writing correction service and get expert feedback to help you improve in this vital area.