Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! How to Make Comparisons in Italian with “Di”

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Learn Travel Italian.com

Do you want to speak Italian more easily and confidently in 2022?

Why not set a goal to learn Italian, starting today, for the year 2022? I will try to help you with this goal by posting a new blog every month in the series “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” In these blogs, I discuss how Italians use their language on a daily basis and in so doing help you to “think in Italian.” 

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, better or worse — often to describe what we prefer.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking to compare the things in the world we live in!

In a prior blog  in this series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! – How to Use ‘Di’ in Italian,we learned that the Italian preposition di can mean “of, from, or by.” Now, we will put di to use in another way — to replace the English word than when making comparisons! 

Let’s continue our new series on Italian prepositions with another blog about the essential Italian preposition “di.” If we learn how to use the Italian preposition “di” to make comparisons, we will truly sound like a native Italian!

This post is the 56th in a series of Italian phrases we have been trying out in our Conversational Italian! Facebook group.  If you’d like to read the earlier posts in the series, “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day!” just click HERE

Many “commonly used phrases”
in Italian use

  the preposition “di”
to make comparisons

See below for how this works.

As we all master these phrases, so will you. Try my method and let me know how it works. What sentences will you create with these phrases?

Please reply. I’d love to hear from you! Or join our Conversational Italian! group discussion on Facebook.

The basics of the Italian language are introduced in the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and reference books Just the Verbs and Just the Grammar*  

                       found on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com.

The rights to purchase the Conversational Italian for Travelers books in PDF format on two electronic devices can also be obtained at Learn Travel Italian.com.

*The material in this blog has been adapted from the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and  the reference book “Just the Grammar.”

****************************************

 Use “Di” to Compare Italian Nouns 
and for Comparisons with Piacere

To speak fluently in another language, it is important to know how to make comparisons. Every day we all compare the characteristics of one thing to another — larger vs. smaller, better or worse — often to describe what we prefer.  The Italian language uses precise sentence structures and specific prepositions when making comparisons that are not always identical to English. In this blog, we will explore several ways to make comparisons that use the Italian preposition di.  The good news is that Italian is consistent, and it is easy to learn the “Italian way” of thinking to compare the things in the world we live in!

To compare two different nouns — people, places, or things — where one has a superior or inferior characteristic, use the following Italian phrases below. Note that the Italian preposition di will combine with the definite article the (il, la, lo, l’, etc.) according to the usual rules, if a definite article is needed in the sentence.

In this case, the Italian preposition di is translated into English with than. Notice that “the” is often used in Italian but is not needed in English, due to the different way the two languages express possession (see the first example below). If you need a refresher on the Italian preposition di, visit a prior blog in this series, “How to Use “Di” in Italian.”

Also, the translation into English will not match the Italian word for word when making comparisons. English uses the irregular “larger” and “smaller” and therefore the Italian “more large” and “more small” cannot be translated directly into English.

Comparison of Two Different Nouns

 

più… di more… than
meno… di less… than

Comparison sentences with two different nouns (person, place, or thing) are given below. The nouns that are being compared are red.

Pietro ha più soldi
di Caterina.
Peter has more money
than Kathy.
Caterina ha meno soldi di Pietro. Kathy has less money than Peter.
   
La casa di Pietro è più grande
del
la casa di Caterina.
Peter’s house is larger
than Kathy’s house.
Firenze è più piccola di Roma. Florence is smaller than Rome.


This Italian sentence structure using
di also works
when making comparisons using piacere between two nouns 
that have different characteristics.

Let’s look into how to make comparisons with the verb piacere.  Piacere is how Italians say they like something. (If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the verb piacere, visit our blog, “Piacere — How Italians Say, ‘I like it!'”)  

Piacere often comes into play to describe how much we like doing something compared to something else. For instance, in a prior blog, “Let’s Talk About… TV and Movies in Italian.” we discussed how to state a preference for one film over another. The two lines below give the correct Italian sentence structure and again use più di and meno di. 

Mi piace… (film)  più di + definite article… (film).
Mi piace…
(film) meno di + definite article…
(film).

Mi piace il film La Vita è Bella più delle serie Commissario Montalbano.
I like the film Life is Beautiful more than  the series Detective Montalbano.
 
Mi piace il film Pane e Tulipani meno di La Vita è Bella.
I like Bread and Tulips less than Life is Beautiful.

 

**********************************************************

Use “Che” to Compare
I
talian Verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs 

However, to combine two different verbs, adverbs or adjectives where one has a superior or inferior characteristic, or one  is liked more than another, substitute che for di. The two lines below use più che and meno che with the verbs correre and nuotare in green, and the adjectives giallo and rosso in brown. Notice that the subject is the same in these comparisons — in this case, the subject is what one likes but of course one can substitute “mi piace” with a noun (person, place or thing). 

The English transition when comparing two verbs uses the present progressive tense (-ing verb).

Mi piace correre più che nuotare.
I like running more than swimming. 
 
Mi piace giallo meno che rosso.
I like yellow less than red.

 

Finally, use più che or meno che if making a comparison that uses a preposition.

Rosa è più contenta con te che con me.
Rose is happier (more happy) with you than with me.

 

Or  use che alone to express a preference.
Preferisco partire il 7 che il 5 di mattina.
I prefer to leave at 7 than at 5 in the morning.

 

 

**********************************************************

Use “Di” with
Irregular Adverbs

Comparative sentences that use adverbs are common, since people often discuss how well (bene) — or how badly (male) — something is going. To compare how one action is better or worse compared to another, use the irregular comparative adverbs meglio and peggio with the preposition di and the same sentence structure described in the last section of this blog.

In the examples below, the adverb that is used in the comparison is in brown and its verb in green. 

Caterina parla italiano bene.        Kathy speaks Italian well.    
Caterina parla italiano meglio di Francesca. Kathy speaks Italian better than Frances.
   
Francesca parla italiano male.    Frances speaks Italian badly.    
Francesca parla italiano peggio di Caterina.  Frances speaks Italian worse than Kathy.

                           

To express the relative superlative “the best” or “the worst” in Italian, one can simply use the comparative sentence structure we have learned with the Italian phrases “meglio di tutti” or peggio di tutti.”

Caterina parla italiano meglio di tutti Kathy speaks Italian better than  everyone.
  Meaning: Kathy speaks Italian the best.  
   
Francesca parla italiano peggio di tutti. Frances speaks Italian worse than everyone.
  Meaning: Frances speaks Italian the worst.

Meglio is used in the same way when talking about a thing, rather than a person. For instance, to compare a recent film with a well-known TV series, see the example below from our blog “Let’s Talk About… TV and Movies in Italian.”

This film is better than…

Questo film è meglio di + definite article…

Questo film è meglio del Commissario Montalbano, sono sicuro!
This film is better than Detective Montalbano, I am sure.

                

Equally important are comparisons made with the adverbs very (molto) or little (poco). People have a tendency to make comparisons between doing something more (più) or doing something less (meno). We have seen the Italian adverbs piu and meno in action in the first section as part of the sentence structure for making a comparison. When used with the meaning of “more” or “less,” piu and meno are considered irregular adverbs. 

However, when making a comparison in Italian using più or meno with the meanings of more or less, speakers often don’t mention the second term.  This is common in every day conversation when both speakers already know the topic under discussion. When the second term in the comparison is omitted, the preposition di is added before più or meno to complete the sentence.

Use di più or di meno, rather than simply più or meno
when the second term of the comparison is not stated.

In the examples below, the adverb used in the comparison is in brown and its verb in green. 

Pietro ha mangiato molta pizza. Peter ate a lot of pizza.
Pietro ha mangiato più pizza di Michele. Peter ate more pizza than Michael.
Pietro ha mangiato di più.    Peter ate more.
   
Michele ha mangiato poca pizza.  Michael ate a little pizza.
Michele ha mangiato meno pizza di Pietro. Michael ate less pizza than Peter.
Michele ha mangiato di meno.  Michael ate less.

To express “the most” or “the least” in Italian, one can simply use the comparative sentence structure we have learned with the Italian phrases “più di tutti” or meno di tutti.”

Pietro ha mangiato più di tutti. Peter ate more than  everyone.
                                                                      Meaning: Peter ate the most.
   
Michele ha mangiato meno di tutti. Michael ate less than everyone.
                                                                      Meaning: Michael ate the least.

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Use “Di” with
Irregular Adjectives

See the irregular comparative adverbs we have just discussed in the previous section in the table below, along with their relative superlative adjectives and phrases.

Adverb   Comparative
Adverb
  Relative Superlative Adjective/Phrases  
bene well meglio better
il migliore
the best
male badly peggio   il peggiore the worst
molto very più

 

di più

more più
la maggior parte di
il maggior numero di
the most
poco a little meno

 

di meno

less meno
il minimo di
la minima parte di
the least

  

Now let’s talk about the relative superlative adjectives in the third column of our table above.

The Best and the Worst in Italian:

Earlier in this blog, we mentioned that to express the relative superlative adjective “the best” in Italian, one can simply use the Italian phrase “meglio di tutti” to state “better than everyone.” 

However, when we use the irregular adjective “il migliore” to state someone or something is “the best,” a different sentence structure is required. One might say Italian is more precise than English since Italian expresses the difference between Frances the person and Frances’ knowledge of Italian. In English, this difference is simply understood. (If you need a refresher on how to state possession with the Italian preposition di, visit a prior blog in this series, “How to Use “Di” in Italian.”) 

In short, an Italian sentence that uses the adjective migliore must start with the noun that migliore modifies. Once again, we encounter differences in the English and Italian way of thinking — in this case about how to be the best!

Below are examples from the prior section again, with the addition of a sentence with “il migliore” for comparison. The last example also includes “the worst,” or “il peggiore,” which follows the same sentence structure. The adverb that is being compared is in brown and its verb in green. The noun described as “the best” or “the worst” is in red.

Caterina parla italiano meglio di tutti Kathy speaks Italian better than  everyone.
  Meaning: Kathy speaks Italian the best.
L’italiano di Caterina è il migliore. Meaning: Kathy’s Italian is the best.
   
Francesca parla italiano peggio di tutti. Frances speaks Italian worse than everyone.
  Meaning: Frances speaks Italian the worst.
L’italiano di Francesca è il peggiore Meaning: Frances’ Italian is the worst.

 

The Most in Italian:

Previously in this blog, we mentioned that to express the relative superlative adjective “the most” in Italian, one can simply use the Italian phrase “più di tutti” to state “more than everyone.”  

We can also use più in a sentence that starts with a noun followed by quello(a,i,e) to express the idea of “the most.” Use this Italian way of speaking to refer to the greatest quantity of something, measure of something (tangible or intangible), or number of something. The Italian sentence structure is similar to the examples given for how to use migliore and peggiore. English speakers tend to express the same idea in a different way, as noted by the translations below. 

Il bicchiere di Marco è quello che ha più vino.    Mark has the most wine in his glass.
Anna è quella della famiglia che è più bella.  Ann is the most beautiful of all of us in the family.
Quest’albero è quello che ha più mele.    This tree is the one with the most apples. 

 

Two other phrases, la maggior parte di” and “il maggior numero di” can also mean “the most,” regarding “the greatest quantity” and “the greatest number” of something.

Also, “Per la maggiore parte…” is commonly used to say, “For the most part…”

Our original examples are listed below again, with additional ways to say “the most.” Notice how the meaning changes with the use of the last two phrases. Also that “fetta di” is itself a separate phrase, so that di is not combined with the definite article.

Pietro ha mangiato più di tutti.
Peter ate more than  everyone/the most.

Pietro ha mangiato la maggior parte della pizza.
Peter ate most (the most part of) of the pizza.

Pietro ha mangiato il magior numero di fette di piazza.
Peter ate most (the most number of) of the pieces of the pizza.

 

The Least in Italian:

Finally, to say “the least,” one can use “meno” with quello(a) and the same sentence structure as described above for più.

Michele è quello della famiglia che ha mangiato meno pizza.
Michael has eaten the least pizza of all of us in the family.

 

“Il minimo di” and “la minima parte di” can also be used to describe “the least.” See examples below. Remember to change the ending of minimo(a) to match the gender of the noun that is modified.

Michele ha mangiato meno di tutti.
Michael ate less than everyone/the least pizza.

 

Michele ha mangiato la minima parte della pizza.     Michael ate the least (amount of) pizza.

Michele ha mangiato il minimo del pane.                  Michael ate the least (amount of) bread.

 


Remember how to make comparisons with
the Italian preposition “di” in conversation 
and I guarantee you will use the Italian “di” every day!

 

Conversational Italian for Travelers books are shown side by side, standing up with "Just the Verbs" on the left and "Just the Grammar" on the right
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” and “Just the Verbs” books: Available on  amazon.com  and Learn Travel Italian.com
The cover of Conversational Italian for Travelers "Just the Important Phrases" book is viewed on a smartphone
Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” book downloaded onto a cell phone from www.learntravelitalian.com

 

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