When people like something more than something else, it's common for me to hear them say they like it better than something else. Is this proper English? I've always thought the word more fits better, but I'm not sure whether or not use of the word better is wrong.

  • 3
    As a foreign speaker, I learned to say “I like A better than B.” (But I keep forgetting it and I often say “I like A more than B.”) I share the feeling that the use of “better” sounds odd because we do not say “I like A well,” but anyway that is what I learned. Nov 13, 2010 at 0:49
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito, agree. (I am from China, and I guess you are from Japan....)
    – user3812
    Feb 17, 2011 at 7:19
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    Does "I hate A worse (or more) than B" have a similar reasoning? I came here looking for explanations after I read a Bill Vaughan quote, "If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity." Jun 30, 2021 at 4:48

8 Answers 8


I think that there is a very obvious answer to this question. The opposite of "better" is "worse." The opposite of "more" is "less." So, which of these sentences sounds correct:

I like dogs worse than cats

I like dogs less than cats?

The answer is clearly "I like dogs less than cats." The sentence "I like dogs worse than cats" would be flagged by any native speaker as being incorrect. No one would ever say that. The answer, in my honest opinion, lies in semantics, not grammar.

Think about it deeply; it simply doesn't make sense to say that you like something better. The word "better" tells you something about the worth of something. Whereas the word "Less" tells you something about a quantity (less butter) or about the perceived strength of something (less light). To increase or decrease the force of your 'liking," only two appropriate words are available to you: you like something more, or less. You can't like something better or worse, because these are words that comment on the value of liking, not its intensity.

To say "I like cats better than I like dogs" means, semantically, that your liking for dogs is somehow better than your liking for cats. And it's obvious that that is not what most people intend to say when they use "better" in this context.

What they mean is that their liking for dogs is GREATER than their liking for cats, not that their liking for dogs is in some odd way BETTER than their liking of cats. Dogs may be better than cats, but our liking of dogs can't be better than our liking of cats.

Of course someone might think that it is better to like dogs than it is to like cats. But there are no "better" ways of liking something.

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    Speaking as a cat-person, I would say it's pretty obvious my liking of my cat is better than my (hypothetical) liking of my (hypothetical) dog. Better in an absolute moral sense (cats are cuter and they purr). And better for me, because it's so much easier to have a cat (plus they don't fart so much! :). Jan 1, 2012 at 3:39
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    Frankly, this is just wrong. It doesn't matter what is more "logical" to you or to me or to anyone else; "like better" and "like best" are common expressions used by native, educated speakers of English and have been for centuries.
    – Casey
    Jul 15, 2015 at 0:28
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    If you read a dictionary rather than try and work out language a priori, you'll see better adverb 1.1 in Lexico "To a greater degree; more (used in connection with success or with desirable actions or conditions)" Examples "I liked him better on television", "I liked it better when it was called Pricewatch". The above answer is clearly wrong.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 7, 2022 at 13:55
  • well, better, best AND good, better, best. So phooey. :)
    – Lambie
    Jan 15 at 19:19

More is, to me, the better of the two. Perhaps you could avoid all ambiguity and instead of:

I like Dogs more.
I like Cats better.

you can try:

I prefer Dogs.

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    Just a clarification: cats are always better than dogs.
    – zerkms
    Nov 13, 2010 at 3:19
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    "More is, to me, the better of the two" So I guess you could say that you like "more" better than "better."
    – Adam
    Feb 17, 2011 at 1:43
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    A friend of mine always used to say of anything particularly good - "Ah! That's more betterer!" Jan 1, 2012 at 3:32

Historically, like well and like better were the norm. (You'll find it in Shakespeare.) British English has dropped this usage, and opted for the more consistent like more, but still retains like well in expressions like well-liked or best loved.

American English has retained like well.

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    Do you have an evidence for this statement? Google Ngrams seems to show that here's not that much difference in usage between the U.S. and the U.K. In particular, in both places like better is more common. See this Ngram. Aug 17, 2013 at 13:22
  • No, I don't. I took it as received wisdom, and it fits my own grammatical intuition (I'm a native speaker of British English) so I never thought to seek corroboration. As you can imagine, I'm surprised by the Ngram result.
    – Pitarou
    Aug 27, 2013 at 0:10

You can use either, both are short versions of comparisons. I like cats better than dogs, but dogs more than pigs.


There may be a US/UK distinction.

I like cats better than dogs

...sounds like to an Americanism to my British ears. I'd be more likely to say:

I like cats more than dogs.

However, I'd agree that both are acceptable.

  • "I like cats better than dogs" sounds like a Britishism to me. So whence cometh it?
    – Jon Purdy
    Nov 14, 2010 at 9:02
  • I hear and use both regularly in the US. Often both in the same sentence.
    – Adam
    Feb 17, 2011 at 1:44
  • I don't hear people say "I like x better than y" very often in the US. 'More' is mo common. Better at the end of sentences more often.
    – Sam
    Feb 17, 2011 at 2:57
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    Do you have any evidence for this statement? Google Ngrams shows the US/UK distinction is not that big. Aug 17, 2013 at 17:56

According to the Oxford English Dictionary and to the Cambridge English Dictionary, you can use either expression. I enclose here the relevant sections and examples.

Both dictionaries explain, as mentioned in @StuartF's comment, that "better" can also be used in the sense of "more". Below you see examples like "it is better than three weeks since...". Note that neither dictionary signals this use as archaic.

So you can use whichever you prefer. No one can tell you you're making a mistake.

Examples of "to like better than..." from OED

One definition of "better" from OED

Definition and examples from CED

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    The addition of supporting references / data makes this answer better than previous ones. Jan 15 at 19:13

Both are correct, it is just a question of colloquialism.

Both "more" and "better" can function as either adjective or adverb. The question is which function is being filled in the case of "I like it _." Once we know what part of speech we are using, we can choose the appropriate word to fit our meaning.


If I throw something farther or faster than you, we can say "I throw better than you."

BUT ..

If I throw an object to a greater degree, amount, or constancy than I do the other object, we can say "I throw one object more than I do the other."

So, having said that, in case of:

"I like this sweater more" makes sense; "I like this sweater better" does not. However, this is a question of colloquialism.

So think about it like this:

What is being compared here? How well we like, or what is liked to a greater degree? If the comparison involves how well (as in how adeptly or correctly or skillfully) we like something, then we are comparing our liking that thing vs. somebody else's liking for it, or perhaps to how well (adeptly, correctly, skillfully) we like another item.


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Mike can't like Edie better than me.

It's from a native speaker that seems to be right.


Be Careful! Don't use any preposition except to in sentences like these. Don't say, for example 'I prefer art than sports'. Prefer is rather formal. In ordinary conversation, you often use expressions such as like...better and would ratherÉ instead. For example, instead of saying 'I prefer football to tennis', you can say 'I like football better than tennis'. Instead of saying 'I'd prefer an apple', you can say 'I'd rather have an apple'.

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