We’re constantly comparing things in English, like how much better the food is in Italy than Canada or how much more you like spring in Tuscany than Denmark in the winter.
So, it’s important to know how to make comparisons when you’re learning Italian, and there are several ways of doing so.
When you’re comparing two things, like how much taller Paolo is than Stefano, or how much smarter you are than someone else, you use something called a comparative structure.
There are three basic types of comparatives:
— di maggioranza (majority)
— di minoranza (minority)
— di ugualianza (equality)
When you’re expressing how much “more” something is than something else, like Paolo being taller than Stefano, you use il comparativo di maggioranza, or the comparative of majority.
To form a sentence using il comparativo di maggioranza, you use più…di or più + che.
— Paolo è più alto di Stefano. – Paolo is taller than Stefano.
— Il libro è più lungo che interessante. – The book is longer than it is interesting.
You can also use the structure più…di or più che.
— Stefano è più basso di Paolo. – Stefano is shorter than Paolo.
— La torta è più dolce che salata. – The cake is more sweet than savory.
When you’re expressing how much “less” something is than something else, like Florence being a city that’s less cold than Prague, you use il comparativo di minoranza, or the comparative of minority.
Here you would use the structure “meno di…/meno…che”.
— Firenze è una città meno fredda di Praga. – Florence is a city less cold than Prague./Prague is a colder city than Florence.
— Lucia è meno portata per la danza rispetto ad Hanna. – Lucia is less fit for dance compared to Hannah.
But wait… when do you use più…di versus più che?
This is a topic that I have always struggled with, but there are a few simple rules to help you (and me!) remember when to use di versus when to use che.
You use di when:
— You’re comparing two different things in terms of quality or action
— In front of numbers
— In front of adverbs
You use che when:
— You’re comparing two qualities of one thing, like the tastes of a cake, the same person, or when you compare verbs and adverbs.
e.g. Preferisco partire il 3 CHE il 5 mattina. – I prefer to leave on the 3rd than on the 5th morning.
— You’re using it in front of a preposition.
e.g Silvia è molto più carina con te CHE con me. – Silvia is a lot nicer to you than to me.
— You’re using it in front of an infinitive.
e.g Per me andare per musei è molto più divertente CHE andare a ballare – To me it’s more fun to go to museums than to go to clubs.
When the nouns of a sentence are the same, you use il comparativo di ugualianza, or the comparative of equality.
To do this, you can use a few different forms:
— (così)…come – This is used for adjectives and adverbs; così is in parenthesis because you don’t always have to add it.
— (tanto)…quanto – This is used for nouns or adverbs; tanto is in parenthesis because you don’t always have to add it.
— La torta cioccolata è (così) buona come la torta vaniglia. – The chocolate cake is as good as the vanilla cake.
— I ragazzi giocano (tanto) a calcio quanto a basket. – The kids play just as much soccer as they do basketball.
So how do you express that something is THE best cake you’ve ever eaten, or how that party is THE worst you’ve ever attended?
In this case, you use il superlativo relativo, or the relative superlative.
Il superlativo relativo is created using the following format:
Definite article (il, la, lo, i, le, gli) + noun + più/meno + di + what you’re comparing the noun to
— Quella ragazza è la più alta che avevo mai visto. – That girl is the tallest girl that I’ve ever seen.
— La pizza italiana è la più buona nel mondo. – Italian pizza is the best in the world.
– Questo professore è il meno interessante di tutti i miei altri professori. – That professor is the least interesting of all my professors.
You can also use il superlativo assoluto, or the absolute superlative, to express the English equivalents of “very + adjective,” like the very best pizza in the city; “adjective + -est,” like the biggest building you’ve ever seen, or “most + adjective,” like the most amazing movie you’ve watched.
Il superlativo assoluto can be formed in a couple of ways:
– Place a word like molto (much), tanto (so much), parecchio (quite some), or assai (very) in front of an adjective.
— Sono tanto contento/a di essere qui. – I am very happy to be here.
– Add –issimo/issima/issimi/issime to the end of an adjective. The ending you choose should correspond to the quantity/gender of the noun you’re describing.
— Quella pizza è buonissima. – That pizza is very good.
– Repeat the adjective or adverb.
— La mia amica migliore è gentile gentile. – My best friend is very, very nice.
– Use some of Italian’s common expressions to express a state.
— Dopo l’esame ero stanca morta. – After the exam, I was dead tired.
– Add a prefix to the beginning of the adjective. The prefix can be super- (super), ultra- (ultra), stra- (extra), arci– (arch), iper- (hyper), extra- (extra) or sovra- (over).
— Questi grattacieli sono super grandi. – These skyscrapers are extra big.
— I conigli sono sovrabbondanti in primavera. – Rabbits are overabundant in spring.
Have any questions about making comparisons or expressing superlatives in Italian? Leave them below!
Note of language love: All of our articles have been edited by a very lovely Italian native speaker, but if you happen to find some mistakes, let us know! We want these articles to be accurate and easy to understand, so they can help you continue to make progress and fall even more in love with the Italian language.