Is it correct to say compete with or compete against? I think compete against is the proper way, but compete with is extremely popular these days. Here's an example: It should be

Apple MacOS competes against Windows 7...

but I have seen the other way.

  • Are you asking a question? Or is this just a language peeve? Peeves are off-topic, and it seems that many people use "compete with" as a synonym for "compete against". – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 3 '11 at 16:21
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇, I edited the question to tone down the peeving. I think it's still a real question. – JSBձոգչ Oct 3 '11 at 16:26
  • Would using the word rivals work? Usage: Apple macOS rivals Windows 7. – juniorRubyist Apr 23 '18 at 22:24

The OED has 17 citations including ‘compete against’ and 130 including ‘compete with’. The equivalent figures from the Corpus of Contemporary American English are 569 and 3335 and from the British National Corpus 85 and 552. That evidence clearly favours ‘compete with’, but I have no quarrel with either. ‘Warn’ is not alone in collocating both with ‘against’ and ‘with’. ‘Argue’ and ‘fight’ do so as well.

  • +1 for noting that compete with is more common than compete against in the corpora by a ratio of about 6 to 1. Both are clearly grammatical, and the original questioner's dispreferred variation is obviously the most idiomatic. – nohat Oct 4 '11 at 7:50

I think the tendency to use "with" - which I don't find at all problematic - comes from the fact that the prefix at the beginning of the word (com-) means "together."

The word itself comes from the Latin words for "strive" and "together."

I think competing with someone for something is perfectly good usage. The "with" implies that you share a goal, not that you're on the same team.

  • That is a nice way of putting it. I tend to use the combinations "Compete with" and " play against" – Dharu Krish Oct 3 '11 at 17:44

The earliest meaning of "with" was "against", both in the sense of "next to" and in the sense of "in opposition to". (Compare German "wider").

So "fight/strive with" are as old as "fight/strive against", and as @Barrie England says, "compete with" has always been more common than "compete against".


I believe that either is correct, as others have stated, but I sense a slight difference in connotation between the two phrases.

Competing against someone or something indicates a targeted approach to competition where a competitor is focused specifically on one of its competition. I sense a bit of aggression or animosity in the phrase.

Competing with someone or something, on the other hand, seems to imply a less targeted, more individualist, less antagonistic form of competition.

Apple competes against Google. I compete with others in the labor market.

  • 1
    I'm not a native speaker, but it might be interesting to the OP that what Andrew described is exactly how I feel about compete against / with. – chikamichi Jan 18 '18 at 20:50

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