Making Comparisons: Yori, Hodo, and No Hou Ga

In this lesson, you'll learn the Japanese equivalents of "X is more ___ than Y" and "X is not as ___ as Y". In order to do this, we'll need several new particles.

Recommended Background:


Yori is a particle roughly equivalent to "than" in English. When you want to compare some characteristic of one thing against another, yori marks the thing you are comparing against. You can think of it as meaning "compared to".

アジアは アフリカより おおきいです。
Ajia wa Afurika yori ookii desu.
Asia compared to Africa is big.

Translation: Asia is bigger than Africa.

Notice that unlike in English, Japanese doesn't require anything like the suffix '-er' following the adjective or the word "more" before it.

You can also yori with na- and no-adjectives, (and verbs as well, but we'll stick to adjectives here). Here are a few more examples.

ばらは チューリップより きれいです。 Bara wa chuurippu yori kirei desu. Roses are prettier than tulips.
「さま」は 「さん」より ていねいです。 "Sama" wa "san" yori teinei desu. "Sama" is more polite than "san".

…No Hou Ga

Another phrase used in comparative constructions is no hou ga, a compound particle that follows the item that exemplifies some characteristic more than something else does. (The "hou" in no hou ga means "direction".) It can be used alone or in combination with yori.

このかばん そのかばんより やすいです。 Kono kaban wa sono kaban yori yasui desu. This bag is cheaper than that one.
このかばんのほうが そのかばんより やすいです。 Kono kaban no hou ga sono kaban yori yasui desu. This bag is cheaper than that one
このかばんのほうが やすいです。 Kono kaban no hou ga yasui desu. This bag is cheaper (than something else).

Does it bother you that wa is used in the first sentence, but not in the last two? This fact has two consequences:

  1. If the thing being compared is a topic, then "…wa…yori" is preferred. Otherwise, "…no hou ga…yori" is often better.
  2. If the thing being compared is not a topic, then we can add a topic that is distinct from the subject.

I won't go into the details of whether the subject should be a topic or not here, but for the second case, let's look at a quick example.

アイスクリームは チョコレートのほうが バニラより すきです。 Aisukuriimu wa chokoreeto no hou ga banira yori suki desu. As for (flavors of) ice cream, I like chocolate more than vanilla.

It's very common in Japanese to make a category into a topic and then use specific members of that category elsewhere in the sentence. You could also say "I like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla ice cream", in which case you could use either wa or no hou ga.


Now let's look at the "opposite" construction, "X is not as ___ as Y". The comparison particle used here is hodo, which is similar to "as" in English, and means something like "to the extent of". As in English, you use the negative form of the adjective.

スペインごは にほんごほど おもしろくない。
Supein-go wa Nihongo hodo omoshirokunai.
Spanish to the extent of Japanese is not interesting

Translation: Spanish is not as interesting as Japanese.

Hodo can also be found in affirmative sentences, but this use is more complex.

In Summary

Kana Romaji English
XはYより [adj-aff] X wa Y yori [adj-aff]   X is more [adj] than Y
(Xは)YのほうがZより [adj-aff] (X wa) Y no hou ga Z yori [adj-aff] (Among X) Y is more [adj] than Z
XはYほど [adj-neg]  X wa Y hodo [adj-neg]  X is not as [adj] as Y

What Next?

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