Understanding Comparatives in Italian

A complete break-down of how to compare people and things in Italian.

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Italian comparatives, known as "comparativi" in Italian, provide a way to compare two things, people, places, or objects. This article will make you learn and master the use of comparatives in Italian, the various types, the situations in which they are used, and offer examples.

Compared to English comparatives, the Italian comparativi serve the same purpose but might require a bit more practice. Rest assured, by the end of this article, you'll be more prepared than ever to master them.

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Italian comparatives

Italian has two kinds of comparativi: comparatives of inequality (comparativi di disuguaglianza) and comparatives of equality (comparativi di uguaglianza).

Italian speakers use comparatives of equality when they want to say two things have a similar (or the same) quality or property, such as “he has as many cats as dogs.”

On the other hand, comparatives of inequality express when two things have a difference in quality or property, such as “his hair is shorter than mine.”

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Italian comparatives of inequality

In Italian, the basic construction for comparatives of inequality is this:

  • più…di or che

  • meno…di or che

Let’s take a look at this in example sentences.

Italian comparatives of inequality

Italian comparatives of inequality Francesco is more interesting than Julia.
Il mio cane è meno pigro del mio gatto. My dog is less lazy than my cat
Siamo più disorganizzati di lei. We are more disorganized than her.
Ha meno progetti di me. (She/he) has fewer projects than me.
Loro sono più arrabbiati che stanchi. They are more angry than tired.
Ho meno figli che figlie. I have fewer sons than daughters.
Avete più amici che nemici. You all have more friends than enemies.

You might notice that some examples use di after the adjectives, while other times it’s che. Why?

Italian speakers use di when:

  1. Comparing two nouns through an adjective. Think of this as comparing two people or things against one quality. Look at the example below:
  • L’italiano è più difficile del francese. (Italian is more difficult than French.)

Below is an example of comparison referring to the quantity of a noun that two other nouns "own"/ "are assigned". The comparison doesn't involve an adjective:

  • (Lui/lei) Ha meno progetti di me. (He/she) has less projects than me.

Pro-tip: Remember that if the preposition di is followed by a definite article (il, i, gli, lo, la or le), they will combine and become del, dei, degli, dello, della, delle or dell’.

  1. Comparing people, things or concepts and there is a number:
  • Sono passati più di due anni? (Has it been more than ,2 years?)
  • Costa meno di due euro. (It’s less than two euros.)

We use che when:

  1. Comparing two qualities (adjectives) of a noun. Essentially, it’s the reverse of rule number one of di. We use che when you are comparing qualities or properties of only one subject. The noun is underlined below:
  • Il film è più sciocco che spaventoso. (The movie is sillier than scary.)
  1. Comparing two verbs through an adjective. The verbs are underlined below:
  • Cucinare è più divertente che pulire. (Cooking is more fun than cleaning.)

  • Guidare è meno salutare che andare in bicicletta. (Driving is less healthy than riding a bike.)

  1. Comparing the quantities of two nouns. The nouns are underlined below:
  • Ho meno figli che figlie. (I have fewer sons than daughters.)

  • Avete più amici che nemici. (You all have more friends than enemies.)

  1. There is a preposition after the adjective (such as “at”, “in”, “on”, etc.) They are underlined below:
  • Il viaggio è più breve in aereo che in treno. (The trip is shorter by plane than by train.)

Italian comparatives of equality

Meanwhile, comparatives of equality express when something is the same as another in its property, frequency or quantity. In English, this looks like: “She’s as tall as him.”

In Italian, there are two comparatives of equality:

  • (Tanto)…quanto

  • (Così)…come

Examples of Italian comparatives of equality

I miei capelli sono (tanto) lunghi quanto i tuoi. My hair is as long as your hair.
Mia madre è (così) bella come Julia Roberts. My mother is as beautiful as Julia Roberts.

Tanto and così are in parenthesis because they’re optional here.

Now, both expressions mean the same thing and are interchangeable, but there are instances where you can only use tanto…quanto, i.e. when comparing two verbs, two adjectives, two nouns, or the quantity of one or two nouns.

  • Corro tanto quanto vado a nuotare. (I run as often as I go swimming.)
  • Carla è tanto sorpresa quanto felice. (Carla is as surprised as she is happy.)
  • Nella città c’erano tanto chiese quanto scuole. (In the town there were churches as well as schools.)
  • Nella città c’erano tante chiese quante scuole. (In the town there were as many churches as schools.)
  • Hai tante scarpe quante me. (You have as many shoes as me.)

The last two examples above also show another important rule. Tanto…quanto will agree in number and gender if they are referring to the quantity of a noun (in these cases, chiese or churches, scuole or schools, and scarpe or shoes). Così…come is invariable and won’t ever change according to number or gender.

Pro-tip: If a non-possessive pronoun comes after a comparative, it must be a disjunctive pronoun (a pronoun that can stand on its own). In English, these would be me, you, him, her, us, you, and them. In Italian, they are me, te, lui, lei, noi, voi, and loro. Learn more about this with our guide to Italian pronouns.

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Irregular Italian comparatives

Of course, there are some irregular Italian comparatives. Before you go, it’s vital to know that in Italian we usually employ other words instead of più buono or più cattivo, although it’s not a hard and fast rule.

Here’s a list of the comparatives that are irregular.

Irregular comparatives

Italian English
migliore (adjective)* better
meglio (adverb)* better
peggiore (adjective)* worse
peggio (adverb)* worse
maggiore bigger
minore smaller
superiore higher
inferiore lower

*With these comparatives, pay close attention to whether they modify a noun or a verb. Here’s how that functions in a sentence:

  • La mia casa è migliore della tua. (My house is better than your house.)
  • Gioca a calcio meglio di me. (He plays football better than me.)
  • La loro performance è stata peggiore della nostra. (Their performance was worse than ours.)
  • Disegno peggio di un bambino. (I draw worse than a child.)

Italian superlatives

In this section, we would be giving a quick overview on Italian superlatives, which is a topic that is also equally brought up when discussing comparatives as they also show comparison. Superlatives express when something is extraordinary (or exceptionally terrible). Just as there are two kinds of Italian comparatives, there are two kinds of Italian superlatives: relative (superlativo relativo) and absolute (superlativo assoluto).

Relative superlatives

Relative superlatives indicate when something is a quality above or below relative to a group.

An example in English would be:

  • My dad is the oldest in our family.
  • My dog is the fastest in this park.
  • My friend is the least funny person in our class.

The underlined parts are the relative group. This is what makes it clear what defined group you are relating the subject to.

To make these sentences in Italian, we’ll use più/meno again. This time, we’ll add a definite article (il, i, gli, lo, la or le).

  • Mio papà è il più anziano della famiglia.
  • Il mio cane è il più veloce di questo parco.
  • La mia amica è la meno divertente della nostra classe.

One last note on relative superlatives—the preposition that comes after the adjective isn’t always di. We also use tra (among) or che (that/which) when we are demonstrating a relationship to a relative group:

  • Siete i più laboriosi tra i nuovi dipendenti. (You all are the most hardworking among the new employees.)
  • Questo inverno è il più freddo che abbia mai vissuto. (It’s the coldest winter that I’ve ever seen.)

Absolute superlatives

Italian absolute superlatives indicate that something is of an extreme quality (good or bad). There is no comparison or relative group here. In English, this looks like:

  • The girl is so beautiful.
  • My students are very clever.
  • You are so brave!

To make an absolute superlative in Italian, there’s a handy suffix we can use! Simply add -issimo (a / i / e) to the end of the adjective.

  • La ragazza è bellissima.
  • I miei studenti sono intelligentissimi.
  • Sei coraggiosissimo!

Wrapping up with Italian comparatives

As a final recap, you have now gained a firm understanding of Italian comparatives and how they allow you to draw comparisons between various elements. While we've touched briefly on superlatives, a more detailed exploration of them may be your next step in your Italian learning journey.

With this newfound knowledge, you're well on your way to mastering the art of comparing and describing in Italian! Keep practicing, and soon, you'll be naturally using comparatives in your daily Italian conversations.

"Sei d'accordo, più o meno?" (Do you agree, more or less?). We hope you will say "Si! Sono completamente d'accordo." (Yes, I totally agree!) after this guide on Italian comparatives!

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