Compare vs. Contrast

How to use "compare" and "contrast" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Some people are under the impression that comparison involves only similarities and that the word contrast must be used to refer to differences. In fact, one meaning of compare is “to note the similarities and differences between two things.” Thus, the expression “compare and contrast” is technically redundant (though so commonly used that it is not considered incorrect); teachers use it in order to emphasize that they want you to discuss both similarities and differences.

Note that compare can be used with either with or to (see this page for more information); as a verb, contrast should be used with the preposition with:

compare one thing to/with another thing

contrast one thing to another thing
contrast one thing with another thing

However, as a noun, contrast can be used with either with or to, as in the expressions “in contrast with” and “in contrast to.”

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.