Making Comparisons in Chinese – All about Bǐ-structure(比字句)

In everyday life, we usually compare different people or things by length,  weight,  size,  age and so on. So, do you know how to say she is more beautiful than I am and She is much more beautiful  than I am  in Chinese ? And why the sentence“他比我很漂亮(Tā bǐ wǒ hěn piàoliang)“ is wrong?

1. The sentences above can be expressed using “ Bi-structure(比字句) “. In Chinese, we usually use “Bi-structure(比字句)“ to compare different people and things,  describe the changes in different situations, and describe changes over time of one person or thing, but the word order in these kinds of sentences is different from in English.  Look at the patterns below:

A B + adjective

E.g.

(1)他比我高。(Tā  bǐ wǒ  gāo.  )

He is taller than me.

 (2)我的房间比他的房间大。(Wǒ de fángjiān bǐ tā de fángjiān dà .)

My room is bigger than his.

(3)我比去年胖。(Wǒ bǐ qùnián pàng.)

 I am fatter than  last year.

We can omit the part which is compared. For example:

我的房间比他的(房间)大。(Wǒ de fángjiān bǐ tā de fángjiān dà .)

My room is bigger than his.

 

  • The interrogative form:

A B + adjective + 吗?

E.g.

他比你高吗?(Tā bǐ nǐ gāo ma?)

Is he taller than you?

How to answer the question‘‘他比你高吗(Tā bǐ nǐ gāo ma)“ in Chinese ? We  already know the affirmative answer, but when we come to the negative form, there are two differernt kinds of answers. Look at the examples below:

  • The negative form:

i) A没有B + adjective

E.g.

他没有我高。(Tā méiyǒu wǒ gāo.) He is not taller than I am.

 His height < My height

ii) A不比 B + adjective

E.g.

他不比我高。(Tā bù bǐ wǒ gāo.)

a) His height≈My height ( His height is almost the same with mine)

b) His height<My height  (He is shorter than I am)

Notes:

The sentence他不比我高(Tā bù bǐ wǒ gāo) has two possible meanings  like above. Actually, this negative form is not only a comparative sentence, it also expresses a tone of the dispute. While, the sentence“他没有我高(Tā méiyǒu wǒ gāo))“just focuses on the fact itself.

What’s more, there are differences between the adjectives used in these two negative forms. Genernally,  the adjectives  in “A 没有B + adjevtive“ should be positive words, but there are no such limits in  “A 不比B + adjective“. Look at the examples below:

   E.g.

我没有你聪明。(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ cōngmíng.) I am not clever than you.

*我没有你笨。(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ bèn.) I am not stupider than you. X

我不比你矮。(Wǒ b ù bǐ nǐ ǎ i.)

 I am not shorter than you.

 我也不比你笨啊,可是我为什么总学不会。(Wǒ yě bù bǐ nǐ bèn a, kěshì    wǒ wèishénme zǒng xué bú huì.)

 I am not stupider than you, but why I  can’t  alreays learn that.

Nomally, we can’t say “我没有你笨(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ bèn)“, but  if you want to emphasize that you are stupid and I am not as stupid as you, we can say “我没有你那么笨(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ nàme bèn)“. Generally, we would use “那么(nàme)“ before passive adjectives.

2. The sentence A 比 B + adj can explain there are imparities between A and B, but if there are some big differences between two people or things, or you want to express the specific differences between them, we should add some specific words to the “Bi-structure(比字句)“ . Look at the examples below:

i) AB + adjective + the specific quantity

E.g.

他比我高10厘米。(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo shí  límǐ.)

He is ten centimeters taller than I am.

ii) AB + adjective + 一点儿/ 一些/得多/多了

E.g.

他比我高一点儿(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo y ìdiǎnr.)

He is a little bit taller than I am.

他比我高一些(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo yìxiē.)

He is a little taller than I am.

他比我高得多/多了(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo de duō/duō le)

He is much taller than I am.

When we express that there are big differences between two people or two things, we should pay attention to the fact that we can’t put the adverbs which describe the high degree before the adjective. We can use the adjectives, like “多、远 “ which should be put behind the adjective.

      E.g.

*我的汉语比他很差。(Wǒ de hànyǔ  bǐ t ā hěn chà.) X

我的汉语比他差远了。(Wǒ  de hànyǔ  bǐ t ā chà yuǎn le .)

My Chinese is much worse than his.

 

3. If you want to express A has the high degree in an aspect, while B is much higher than A in this aspect, we can say as follows:

AB + / + adjective

E.g.

大卫比姚明还高。(Dàwèi  bǐ Yáomíng hái gāo.)

David is even taller than Yaoming.

If you want to ask about specific differences or if there is a big difference  between two aspects, you can say :

  • The interrogative form

i) AB + adjective + 多少?

E.g.

大卫比姚明高多少?(Dàwèi  bǐ Yáomíng gāo duōshao?)

ii) AB + adjective + 得多吗?

E.g.

大卫比姚明高得多吗?(Dàwèi  bǐ Yáomíng gāo dé duō ma?)

Here is a summary of the Bi-structure(比字句):

bi

So now that we have learned about “Bi-structure(比字句)“, do you know how to say she is more beautiful than I am and She is much more beautiful  than I am  in Chinese ? Do you know how to correct the sentence“他比我很漂亮(Tā bǐ wǒ hěn piàoliang)“?  Share your answers with us and comment below!

Zhang Yu

After graduating from University majoring in Teaching Chinese As A Second Language in 2011, Zhang Yu worked as a book editor about Chinese traditional culture and juvenile reading for 3 years. In 2015, she became a graduate student of Beijing Foreign Studies University, and continued to study international Chinese education. Now she is a Chinese teacher in Confucius institute in Palacký University, Olomouc in Czech Republic.