Advice on comparisons with より and ほうが


#1

Whenever I talk to my Japanese friends and I need to make a comparison with より and ほうが, I always end up saying the opposite of what I want to say. I’ve studied this grammar pattern over and over again, but when I’m in the moment, I consistently overthink, make the wrong choice, and end up saying the opposite of what I intended…

Does anyone have advice on how they internalize the grammar here so I don’t have to overthink it?


#2

I had this problem for a long time. After listening to native speakers everyday, I copied what they did and everyone understands me now.
Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but just skip the ほうが part.

私はあなたより高いです。

Or skip the より part.

私のほうが高いです。

Living in Japan for over a year now and I usually hear the former and rarely, if ever, hear both of them used together in one sentence unless someone is being really formal, I guess, or quoting a textbook.

Only using one or the other helped me a lot. Hope it works for you too!


#3

I always remember the word that’s paired with より as the “lesser” of the two. For example, MrConMan19’s sentence has あなたより, so あなた must be the lesser of the two in relation to 高い.


#4

I always think of より as less than,
おにぎりより(<--)カツ丼のほう(ーー>)が美味しい= Kastudon is more delicious that onigiri
おにぎりより(<--)美味しい= Less than/rather than onigiri, more delicious.
カツ丼のほう(ーー>)が美味しい= Katsudon is more delicious

妹より(<--)背が短い=Compared with little sister, shorter.
私のほうが(-->)背が短い= I am shorter

I don’t know, I just think of より, as opposed to, less than, the other way kind of, and ほう is always more, straight forward, ahead to me.


#5

I just think of “より” as having a bit of a diminutive quality. Thus, whatever precedes it is being called small (less than).

Alternatively, “ほうが” is literally “方が,” so in comparative sentences you’re actually saying its way is to be larger/better/whatever.

“Being big? That’s the way of (whatever is being compared positively).”

And yeah, as MrConMan19 notes above, it’s very rare to actually hear both used in one sentence. (It’s a very textbook construction.)


#6

I definitely hear both versions, but basically when you just use one, you picture the one that is “focus”.

So if we go to 私はあなたより高いです First, 私は is an implicit のほうが here. But I’m going to ignore it for a moment. Saying あなたより高い is that the focus here is on あなた for some reason, while 私の方が高い is that 私 is what we’re talking about.

Also, you can always use もっと to not create an explicit comparison like the other two do.

I’d say the reason you don’t hear both is more that you generally already know or have established what you’re comparing against. It’s unlikely that someone blurts this sentence out, out of the blue.


#7

Thanks everyone who replied! Trying to use only one is definitely easier. より seems simpler to use than のほうが so I’ll probably just stick with より for now.


#8

I used to think of it like this also, but here is where I get confused. In my head, I translate it like this for some reason…

私はあなたより高い
I you less than tall >>> I am less tall than you.

BUT that’s not what it means, right? It means I’m taller than you, right? The grammar and logic makes perfect sense to me, but then when I think about it too much I start to confuse myself like this.


#9

Thing of 私は as the topic here rather than the subject, and it will clear up your problem.

私はあなたより高い
I you less than tall >>> “As for me, you are less tall” OR “In reference to me, you are less tall.”

You are not the SUBJECT of the above statement, but the TOPIC. The height comparison comes from your height as a baseline, but you yourself are not acting upon the (assumed here) copula.

If you added in the です, your interpretation would indeed result as "I (私は) am (です) less tall (より高い) than you (あなた). But take out the 私は and you’re left with "You (あなた) are (です) less tall (より高い).

「あなたより高い」alone simply would be “you less than tall,” which perfectly changes to “You are less tall.” The use of 私は is unnecessary here, as Syphus said, and I think it’s what’s messing you up. Does this approach make any sense? :slightly_smiling_face:

Textbook Japanese teaches us to think of 私は。。。です as “I am…,” but that’s not accurate to how the grammar actually works.


#10

It does indeed mean “I’m taller,” but it’s easier to not get hung up on the “I” part. It means “You are less tall.” Focus on the diminutive role of “より.” Whatever noun proceeds it is “less than.” Every time.

I’m not sure where to direct you for listening practice for this (sorry!), but it becomes extremely easy to remember when you listen to native speakers using shorthand constructions like “AよりB,” where both are nouns and the statement is an indicator that “B” is basically the better choice for whatever the situation is.


#11

That makes perfect sense!!


#12

Although some have mentioned that one can think of より as being “less than”. It’s probably best to simply think of it as just “than”. The reason I say this is that there are situations outside of the comparative settings where より means “more”. This makes the concept more confusing to process when it has always been thought of as “less than”.

私はあなたより背が高い。
I am taller than you.

誰よりもピアノが上手だ。
I play the piano better than anyone else.

これはより早く、より正確に計れるよ。
This can measure faster and more accurately.


#13

Yea, it’s important to note より has a number of other usages that are still part of that fundamental meaning of “than” but aren’t “less than”, such as それより and と言うより

より is so common that a ligature, ゟ exists(ed) of it.


#14

I would recommend focusing on 方が if you’re going to focus on one or the other. It is much more useful overall. Whatever より is being used with can usually be omitted.

Which do you like better, coffee or tea?

コーヒーの方が(お茶より)好きです。

You can say “I like coffee more (than tea).” In both English or Japanese the part enclosed in parentheses can be omitted.

Most often I feel like より can be used to bring up a counterpoint in conversation.

Friend: I want to buy this computer
You: でもこれより高いよ! But it is more expensive than this one.

Just my two cents :slight_smile:


#15

I think it’s easiest to just think of “より” as meaning “compared to”.