How to Compare Something in Japanese: JLPT N3 Grammar に比べて (Ni Kurabete)

Last Updated on 21.11.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

In Japanese grammar, に比べて (ni kurabete) is used to compare things, places, or experiences. After all, comparing something is an action we do all the time, even if it’s just in our minds. How else would you be able to hold up those days when you knew zero Japanese against now when you can have engaging conversations? How would we determine pressing matters like whether the last Japanese summer managed to be more humid than the previous one? It’s all in the comparison. 

To put those A is better than B thoughts into Japanese words, you’ll need に比べて (ni kurabete). With this Japanese grammar point, you can talk about differences, similarities, preferences and just about anything that requires you to evaluate items. 

Contents

Verb Basics: 比べる (Kuraberu)

比べる is a ~る verb meaning to compare two or more items. This verb is conjugated in the usual way of verbs in this group. You take away the る and add the new ending. 

For 比べる, this is what this looks like:

比べます (kurabemasu)Polite form
比べ比べ (kurabeta)Past tense
比べない (kurabenai)Negative Plain form
比べ (kurabete)Te form

As you can see, the 比べ part of the verb remains unchanged in the conjugated forms. As you can probably also see, the point we are discussing here uses the て form of the verb. You can refresh your memory of how to make the て form of Japanese る verbs before moving on to the next section. 

We’ve actually made a YouTube video breaking down how to use に比べて (ni kurabete), so if you are more of a visual and audio learner who needs to something more interactive, we recommend watching it!

Breaking Down に比べて (Ni Kurabete)

The particle に is placed before the て form of 比べる. Japanese particles can boggle your mind. In this case, it’s best to think of に+比べて as a set. You might imagine the に to mean something like ‘with’ or ‘to’. If you want to go a bit deeper into the function of に in this construction, you could say that に is indicating the result of the comparison. Let’s look at a few examples. 

Example Sentences of に比べて (Ni Kurabete)

一年前に比べて、今は日本語が上手です。
Ichinen mae ni kurabete, ima wa nihonogo ga jouzu desu
My Japanese is better now than it was a year ago. 

去年に比べて、今年は暑いです。
Kyounen ni kurabete, kotoshi wa atsui desu.
Compared to last year (summer), this year is hotter. 

アメリカに比べて、日本は小さいです。
Amerika ni kurabete, nihon wa chiisai desu.
Compared to the United States, Japan is small. 

In all of these examples, a noun comes before に比べて. This is one of the two things being compared.

Structure: Noun +に比べて

You’ll notice that a second noun comes in the latter half of the sentence, followed by the specific aspect and result (adjective) of what’s being compared (上手、暑い、小さい).  

The second half of the sentence could almost stand on its own. In fact, in spoken Japanese, the form is often inverted and に比べて part of the sentence is added after the ‘second half’. 

Examples of Inverted Form for The Use of に比べて (Ni Kurabete)

今は日本語が上手です (一年前に比べて)。
Ima wa nihongo ga jouzu desu (ichinen mae ni kurabete).
My Japanese is good now (compared to a year ago).

今年は暑いです(去年に比べて)。
Kotoshi wa atsui desu (kyonen ni kurabete).
This year is hot (compared to last year)

日本はちいさいです (アメリカに比べて)。
Nihon wa chiisai desu (amerika ni kurabete).
Japan is small, compared to America.

Variations of に比べて: と比べて、に比べると、と比べると 

These common variations all mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.  

と比べてTo kurabeteThe particle と replaces に
に比べるとNi kuraberu toThe verb remains in its plain form and the particle と
と比べるとTo kuraberu toThe particle と is added before and after the plain form of the verb. 

Example sentences

一年前と比べて、今は日本語が上手です。
Ichinen to kurabete, kyou wa nihongo ga jouzu desu.
Compared to a year ago, my Japanese is better now. 

去年に比べると、今年は暑いです。
Kyonen ni kuaberu to, kyonen wa atsui desu.
Compared to last year, this year is hotter. 

アメリカと比べると、日本は小さいです。
Amerika to kuraberu to, nihon wa chiisai desu.
Compared to the United States, Japan is small. 

A Similar Grammar Point to に比べて: – 方, ~より (- hou, ~ yori)

You might have come across this grammar point before. It can also be used to compare things, to say A is more something-something than B.

Aの方がBより美味しいです。
A no hou ga B yori oishii desu.
A is more delicious than B.

Example Sentences for – 方, ~より

今の方が一年前より日本語が上手です。
Ima no hou ga ichinen mae yori nihongo ga jouzu desu.
My Japanese is better now than it was a year ago. 

北海道の方が九州より寒いです。
Hokkaidou no hou ga kyuushuu yori samui desu.
Hokkaido is colder than Kyushu. 

This form can also see the より phrase coming at the beginning of the sentence. This does not change the meaning of the sentence at all. 

一年前より、今の方が日本語が上手です。
Ichinen yori, ima no hou ga nihongo ga jouzu desu.
My Japanese is better than it was a year ago. 

Conclusion

When it comes to comparing in Japanese, remember に比べて. It is a commonly used form that just needs a noun before and a noun and adjective after it. Once you get comfortable, you might find yourself switching things up, going instead for と比べて、に比べると and と比べると, which are all used in the same way.

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FAQs

Can I use に比べて to compare more than two things? 

Most certainly. As long as those things are in two groups. So you might say, タイ料理と中華料理は日本料理にくらべて、辛いです. (Thai food and Chinese food are spicier than Japanese food.) You’ll see that タイ料理and中華料理 function as one noun.

Can I use に比べて in formal situations?

Yes. This is a flexible form that can be used with bosses and friends. Of course, you’ll need to adjust things like your sentence endings to reflect the right level of formality.  You can also use it in writing, everything from social media posts to business emails in Japanese. 

What JLPT level is this に比べて?

This is considered intermediate N3-level grammar. Even if you’re not ready to take N3 or you’ve passed it, it’s still helpful to get familiar with or review this widely used grammar point. 

Where can I find more example sentences using に比べて?

It’s always good to have a grammar dictionary on hand that you just flip through when you have any questions. This series runs from basic to advanced and has loads of example sentences and notes for each grammar point. 

How do you use に比べて (ni kurabete)?

In Japanese grammar, に比べて (ni kurabete) is used to compare things, places, or experiences. You would say, “A に比べて, B ….” (compared to A, B is…)

Read more about our JLPT grammar guides!


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