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

Comparing things or people is a common practice in daily life. We make comparisons using various attributes like length, weight, size, age, and so on. The most commonly used comparative structure in Chinese, known as the 比字句, uses the character 比 (bǐ) to define the relationship between two people or things. For instance, to say “She is more beautiful than me,” you can use the sentence “她比我漂亮 (Tā bǐ wǒ piàoliang).”

However, it’s not as simple as it may seem, and there are certain rules and nuances to keep in mind while using the 比 structure. For instance, using 很 (hěn) before the adjective in this structure is incorrect. Therefore, the sentence “她比我很漂亮 (Tā bǐ wǒ hěn piàoliang)” is grammatically wrong. In this article, we will dig deeper into the 比 structure and explore its usage in Chinese.

1. Basic usage of 比-Sentence Structure (比字句)

In Chinese, we use the 比 structure(比字句) to compare people or things, describe changes in different situations, and changes over time. The word order in these types of sentences is different from English. Here is the pattern:


他比我高。(Tā  bǐ wǒ  gāo.  )
He is taller than me.

我的房间比他的房间大。(Wǒ de fángjiān bǐ tā de fángjiān dà .)
My room is bigger than his.

我比去年胖。(Wǒ bǐ qùnián pàng.)
I am fatter than  last year.

We can often omit the second noun.

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:


他比你高吗?(Tā bǐ nǐ gāo ma?)
Is he taller than you?

To answer the question “他比你高吗?(Tā bǐ nǐ gāo ma?) ” in Chinese, we need to know the affirmative and negative forms. There are two different kinds of negative responses. Here are some examples:

-> The negative form:


他没有我高。(Tā méiyǒu wǒ gāo.) He is not taller than me.
His height < My height


他不比我高。(Tā bù bǐ wǒ gāo.)
a) His height≈My height ( His height is almost the same as mine)
b) His height<My height  (He is shorter than me)

Note that the sentence “他不比我高(Tā bù bǐ wǒ gāo)” can have two possible meanings, as mentioned earlier. This negative form not only compares, but also expresses a tone of dispute. On the other hand, the sentence “他没有我高(Tā méiyǒu wǒ gāo)” focuses only on the fact itself.

Additionally, there are differences between the adjectives used in these two negative forms. Generally, the adjectives in “A 没有 B + adjective” should have positive connotations, but there are no such limits in “A 不比 B + adjective.” Here are some examples:


我没有你聪明。(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ cōngmíng.) I am not as clever as you.
*我没有你笨。(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ bèn.) I am not dumber 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 dumber than you, but why can’t I learn things.

Usually, we cannot say “我没有你笨(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ bèn),” but if we want to emphasize that we are not as stupid as someone else, we can say “我没有你那么笨(Wǒ méiyǒu nǐ nàme bèn).” We generally use “那么(nàme)” before passive adjectives.

2. Expressing specific or significant differences with 比-Sentence Structure (比字句)

The sentence structure “A 比 B + adj” can indicate differences between A and B, but when there are significant differences or we want to express specific differences, we need to add some specific words. Here are some examples:


他比我高10厘米。(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo shí límǐ.))
He is ten centimeters taller than me.


他比我高一点儿。(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo yìdiǎnr.)
He is a little bit taller than me.

他比我高一些。(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo yìxiē.)
He is a little taller than me.

他比我高得多/多了。(Tā bǐ wǒ gāo de duō/duō le)
He is much taller than me.

When expressing significant differences between two people or things, it’s important to avoid placing adverbs before the adjective. Instead, we can use modifiers like “多” and “远,” which should be placed after the adjective.


*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.

To express that B has a high degree in an aspect, while A is even higher than B in that aspect, we can use the following structure:


大卫比姚明还高。(Dàwèi  bǐ Yáomíng hái gāo.)
David is even taller than Yaoming.

3. The interrogative forms of 比-Sentence Structure (比字句)

To ask about specific differences or if there is a big difference between two aspects, you can use the following sentence pattern:


大卫比姚明高多少?(Dàwèi  bǐ Yáomíng gāo duōshao?)
How much taller is David than Yaoming?


大卫比姚明高得多吗?(Dàwèi  bǐ Yáomíng gāo dé duō ma?)
Is David that much taller than Yaoming?


Mastering the 比structure (比字句) in Chinese is a useful tool for expressing comparisons and differences between people and things. By understanding the correct word order and usage of adjectives, you can communicate effectively and accurately in Chinese.

So next time you want to contrast two things, remember to use the 比 comparison structure and impress your Chinese-speaking friends!

(Besides, you can also check the video summary as well as more grammar tutorial videos here.)

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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.

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