In what kind of situation can we use "not as...as" not "not ...er than"?

This question is not as easy as that one.
This question is not easier than that one.
This question is more difficult than that one.

I feel these three sentences indicate the same concept. How can we distinguish how to use these three sentences?

  • 2
    The second example could mean that the questions are equal in difficulty.
    – bib
    Feb 26 '14 at 13:57
  • I've fixed your formatting. This site uses markdown which results in some oddities in format. Take a look at how I did it by hitting edit. The way to force a line break is to hit enter and double space after it on the same line.
    – David M
    Feb 26 '14 at 15:03

The simplest difference is this:

Question 1 is not as easy as question 2.

This means question 2 is easy, question 1 is harder.

Question 1 is not easier than question 2.

Question 1 may be as hard as question 2, or it may be harder.

So in the case that question 1 is certainly harder than question two, both phrases are correct. But in the case that both questions could also have the same difficulty, only sentence 2 applies.

More importantly, there is also a different implication about the difficulty of the questions:

Question 1 is not as easy as question 2.

Someone may think that question 2 is too easy, and suspect the other questions are easy too. You then tell them that question 1 is in fact not as easy as 2.

Question 1 is not easier than question 2.

Here, someone probably thinks that question 1 is too easy, but your reassure them that the question is certainly not easier than question 2.


These three sentences mix Negation into the Comparative and Equative constructions -- shaken, not stirred. This is quite a big load of semantics and syntax; do not operate heavy machinery.

This cocktail, and related delights, can be investigated further here, as well as here, and here.
Chin, chin.

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