Compared with

How do you translate compared with in French? You have several options, but beware of the loan translation!

The past participle of the verb to compare can be used as an adjective at the beginning of a sentence. It creates a comparison between the noun that follows and the subject of the main proposition, with which it agrees, as it refers to it.

Exemples :

Comparée à l’érable, l’épinette donne un bois de piètre qualité.

Comparés à ma fille, qui n’a reçu aucune formation musicale, les enfants de ma sœur, qui jouent tous d’un instrument, réussissent mieux en mathématiques.

However, the adverbial (and invariable) use of the past participle comparé à or avec is a calque (loan translation) of compared to or with and must be avoided. Comparativement à, en comparaison avec, par comparaison avec, si on compare avec are to be preferred.

Examples:

Comparé au dernier recensement, les allophones sont plus nombreux à Montréal.

– Je m’en suis bien sortie comparé à la première fois.

Comparé à la dernière saison, ces oranges sont beaucoup moins juteuses.

The following are to be preferred:

En comparaison avec le dernier recensement, les allophones sont plus nombreux à Montréal.

– Je m’en suis bien sortie si je compare avec la première fois.

Comparativement à la dernière saison, ces oranges sont beaucoup moins juteuses.

The verb comparer can be used with à or avec: comparer une chose à une autre or comparer une chose avec une autre.

Banque de dépannage linguistique

By | 2008-03-06T10:25:28+00:00 March 6th, 2008|Technical corner|6 Comments

About the Author:

Celine
I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.

6 Comments

  1. S.M. March 6, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Actually, “compared to/with” is a calque of the French! Like 60% or more of English vocabulary and grammatical structures, this expression was actually borrowed into English from French. The prescriptive rule about how to use “to” or “with” is actually the same in English as in French, as well, it’s just that in everyday speech English speakers (and French speakers) don’t necessarily follow those rules since, in everyday speech, the distinction doesn’t add much.
    It’s very easy to assume that “grammatical decay” in French is due to the influence of English, but French has had a huge impact on English since 1066, as well, and in many cases the influence is historically in the opposite direction of the assumption. 🙂

  2. céline March 7, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Are you sure sure sure? I found this on the Office québécois de la langue française, and our French Canadian friends are normally very reliable on these matters.

  3. S.M. March 8, 2008 at 12:09 am

    This example of prescriptive usage rules with “to compare to/with,” and its French equivalent “comparer à/avec,” gives an opportunity to look at what is really going on. First of all, it is not debatable that the English expression comes originally from French with either preposition; the OED gives the first citations of if around the 14th century in English, from the French word then spelled “comperer” or “comparer.” The issue is, what preposition is used with it.
    Whenever people who get into prescriptive language rules, they are treading on eggs. This is because people have strong ideas about language and care passionately about language–in many cases to the exclusion of critical framework within which to rationalize decisions about what is “proper” language and what is not. If we look at the history of English, for instance, there has been a traditional but entirely nonsensical rule about not splitting infinitives that people continue to cite as a “rule” for “proper” English, even though no style or usage guide advocates avoiding split infinitives any more, not even the OED. The origin of this “rule” was simply that the infinitive was one word in Latin, ergo the English two-word infinitive should never be split–never mind that well-educated people and the English speaking world’s most esteemed writers have used split infinitives for the past 700 years without interruption.
    There is a similar irrational old rule about “compare.” In 1844, Joseph de LaPorte wrote “A French Grammar” (Otis: Cambridge) in which he writes: “It is more correct to say ‘comparer à,’ to compare to, than ‘comparer avec,’ to compare with. This latter forms a sort of pleonasm, because ‘comparer’ comes from the Latin comparare, which is composed of ‘parare cum’; consequently the preposition ‘avec,’ ‘cum,’ used with the verb is a repetition of the same word include in the verb itself.” This is a classic example the arbitrary application of concept from Latin grammar on English, or French, for that matter, just like the arbitrary application of the “rule” not to split the infinitive. By the same logic, we should not say something is “included in” something else, because “in” is redundant, or we should not say “emigrated from” since “e(x)-” and “from” are redundant.
    Now, the 1993 edition of “Le bon usage” (p. 423) also takes up “comparer à/avec.” There, it states, “Quoique le préfixe ‘con-‘ (et ses variants) que l’on trouve dans des verbes empruntés au latin signifie ‘avec,’ il est admis dans la meilleure langue de les faire suivre de la preposition ‘avec.’” Numerous examples follow from French literature by the very best authors of “comparer avec.” Naturally this overtly contradicts de LaPorte and his predecessors, as well as the Banque de dépannage.
    We can find examples of the same arbitrary delineations for English “to compare to/with.” (See usage notes in Merriam-Webster, etc.)
    Although the Québec language office certainly is reliable overall, it is not an infallible resource–and like any resource can succumb to traditional rules that have no basis in actual language history or former or current usage. Etymology and the history of usage is one area in particular that is not always practiced well since both fields require quite a bit of study and expertise.
    My guess is that the Québec office may at times tend to prefer rules that make French in Canada as different from English as possible, even when these rules rest on less firm footing than rules that reveal how close English and French are at times. “Le bon usage” obviously less need to do that.

  4. céline March 8, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Well S.M., that is as impressive as it is useful! Thanks a lot for taking the time to clarify. I’m interested in your view that the Québec office favours options that stray from English as much as possible. My view was that its people are so attached to the French language that their recommendations are often more precise and better researched than on equivalent French sites.
    I agree with you on the fact that there is little point in trying to decide once and for all what the "right rules" are – the evolution of language can be so random and illogical that it is a lost battle.

  5. Circeus March 9, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I’ve noticed a similar trend in that, especially in Quebec, we tend to obsess over apparent Anglicisms that are not. Grévisse points out that two of the most decried and widespread loan translations of the last decade, “réaliser que” and “opportunité” are extremely natural extensions of their French meaning, and we’d never have noticed them if it wasn’t for the anglicism paranoïa: we’d be too busy trying to keep people from saying “malgré que”, “pallier à” and “vitupérer contre” (all losing battles IMHO).

  6. Martine April 15, 2008 at 9:36 am

    In many cases, ‘compared to’ will be most simply translated as ‘par rapport à’ in French.

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