If an outcome is not as bad as the alternative. Is it correct to use "less bad" to conclude a comparison?

A: I've got bad news, her brother was in a car accident.

B: Is he hurt?

A: No, but the car is in bad shape.

B: Less bad.


@RegDwigнt The car being broken is less bad/worse than the possibility of her brother having gotten himself hurt or dying. In Portuguese we say "less bad" as a conclusion and I wonder if it applies to English.

  • Of course. What is the alternative you are suggesting?
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 29, 2014 at 12:29
  • @RegDwigнt Being hurt or worse.
    – SurvMach
    Jan 29, 2014 at 12:31
  • 1
    I am not sure I am following... are you suggesting that "worse" means "less bad"? Please clarify further.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 29, 2014 at 12:37
  • 1
    another alternative: not as bad
    – msam
    Jan 29, 2014 at 13:39
  • 3
    "Not as bad" is more commonly used than "less bad", FWIW. Jan 29, 2014 at 14:15

5 Answers 5


Your edited question suggests that "Less bad." is a comment in itself, as and end to the conversation. That really wouldn't be understood in English. I think the closest equivalent (at least in British English) would be "Could be worse."


Yes, you can use it, but I wouldn't use it in your example. Even "Better" sounds kind of rude in that situation.

Thinking about it, I might use "Less bad" when commenting on two explicit courses of action, both of which have negatives. But only in a very informal setting. "Better" only says that one option is better than the other, "less bad" also adds that neither option is desirable.

"We are out of half and half for coffee. We could use skim milk instead.


"Or we could use cream".

"That would be less bad".


The only alternative I would see for "less bad" is "better", but that does not fit at all in this situation, so go for "less bad".

Less bad could imply "better", but not in this case; "better" implies something good, i.e. positive. In this case, where the accident and the brother's involvement are indeed bad, or negative, it would be inappropriate to use "better".

In the same way, it is fine to say that something tastes less good than something else, if the other thing tastes good.

If my brother is very tall, I am less tall, not shorter. Well, obviously, if he is taller, I am shorter, but it would not convey the message that he is really tall. If I just say I am shorter than my brother, one might reasonably assume he is short, and I am even shorter.


Another option is "relatively better". Sounds nicer than "less bad" and isn't as positive as just "better".


I'd suggest "not (quite) as bad".

  • But "but not quite as bad" inverts the comparison.
    – SurvMach
    Jan 30, 2014 at 14:04
  • Why is that? The damaged car is not quite as bad (i.e, marginally better) than the brother being hurt, isn't it?
    – Ingmar
    Jan 30, 2014 at 14:05
  • When A asks "Is he hurt?" he sets the focus and then "less bad" comes to conclude that the status quo is not as bad as the focus. But I feel your "not quite as bad" means the same thing. I misundersood you. I am wondering about the usage of "less bad" itself.
    – SurvMach
    Jan 30, 2014 at 14:13

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