Keith Kelly looks at examples of the language of comparison from the area of geography, covering grammatical patterns and structures, useful verbal phrases and specific prefixes.

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Comparatives and superlatives

  • Brazil’s population in the diagram shows a narrow peak. This indicates that a smaller number of people live long lives than in Germany.
  • Which country has the highest life expectancy?
  • The world’s population grew faster than ever before from 1750 onwards.

Equality and inequality

the more …: The more developed a country’s economy, the greater is the percentage employed in services.
less: Younger people cost less to employ and are less likely to know their rights.
as … as: The ability of smaller glaciers to erode tributary valleys was not as great as large glaciers.

Phrases for comparing or contrasting two items

differ from / different from: Rocks can differ from each other in terms of colour, hardness, density and how they feel to the touch.
vary greatly between … and …: Growth rates vary greatly between poor, less industrially developed countries and rich industrially developed countries.
similar to: Fjords have very steep parallel sides along their edges which are similar to those in glaciated valleys on dry land.

Verbs which describe greater or lesser degrees

improve (decline): As educational standards improve, family size tends to fall.
increase (reduce): The narrow flood plain of a mature river valley increases in width as the river approaches its old age stage.

Compound words to form adjectives for describing shape

-like: needle-like, brush-like
shaped: pyramid-shaped, U-shaped, V-shaped, bowl-shaped, horseshoe-shaped


over- (under-): The balance of gases in the atmosphere allowed most of the heat to escape into space so that the earth’s atmosphere did not overheat.

Discourse markers

on the other hand: Evergreen trees don’t need much water. Deciduous trees, on the other hand, need lots of moisture in the growing season.
whereas: Most city attractions are man-made whereas in the rural areas attractions tend to be natural.
while: Some ocean floors have been raised above sea level while others remain as part of the seabed.
however: The Australian outback has a very small population. As you get close to the coast, however, the population density is much higher.
nevertheless: The expansion of the industrial park has created new jobs for the community. Nevertheless, some parts of the new town still suffer from high rates of unemployment.


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