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Is only one of them correct? Are they used in different situations? Or are they interchangeable?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

From Strunk and White:

To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances between objects regarded as essentially of a different order;

To compare with is mainly to point out differences between objects regarded as essentially of the same order.

Thus, life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.

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Could you please provide more example about "compare to" and "compare with"? Thanks. – Anonymous Aug 13 '10 at 2:22
Is this right? You compared to me. Here, the result of the comparison is ordered, e.g., you are less important then me. And, You compared with me. The result is non-ordered, e.g., You like C, but I like Pascal. – Xiè Jìléi Feb 14 '11 at 6:13

Use "compared with" when you are looking for differences.

E.g. CEO’s now earn 419 times the pay of blue-collar workers, compared with 42 times their pay in the 1980's.

Use "compared to" when highlighting (or comparing) the similarities of one thing to another.

E.g. The human heart can be compared to a pump.

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Would you say the difference is between "to compare" and "to contrast"? You contrast the differences and compare the similarities. – livresque Jul 10 '14 at 6:50

I have always found this distinction to be counterintuitive. "With" suggests closeness, i.e., similarity; while "to" connotes distance, as in "going to".

Therefore, the way I always remember the difference is: They are the opposite of what they should be.

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