Is it required to use comparative adjectives while comparing two things like this?

Wireless networks, compared to wired networks, suffer from slow(er) connection speed, long(er) delay, and (more) dropped connections.


It's possible, but not required.

  • Which one makes more sense then?
    – Helium
    Feb 8 '12 at 13:53
  • 2
    @Mohsen: They both make sense. The comparative forms emphasise the distinction. Feb 8 '12 at 14:01

Barry is correct.

One can use comparatives, which is quite proper in a comparison and does not impede interpretation; indeed, it must make it clearer, or this question wouldn't be asked.


One can rely on the clause compared to wired networks -- neatly inserted before the main verb like any other adverb -- to indicate that there is a comparison, followed immediately by the main verb suffer, which identifies its object NPs as the negative pole of the indicated comparison.

Since these NPs all represent unpleasant outcomes, they are interpreted correctly. However, this would not work at all if the sentence had been

Wireless networks, compared to wired networks, suffer from fast connection speed, short delay, and stable connections.

  • I don't think your last example "suffers from" the use of non-comparative adjectives, so much as from the fact that the described conditions would generally not be reasons for suffering regardless of whether they used comparisons. I would think it fair to say that "Compared to most other connections, satellite-connections combine long delay with high potential throughput".
    – supercat
    Feb 9 '14 at 20:56

Comparative adjectives are required when the noun being compared is applicable to some degree to both, which is mostly the case:

Wireless networks, compared to wired networks, suffer from slower connection speed: Connection speed is applicable to both types of networks.

However, in some cases, it may be applicable only to one of them and not the other:

Compared to rural folk, those from the cities were educated people: Rural folk were not educated, therefore we do not say those from the cities were more / better educated. (You can find some examples that will fit better than this one.)

  • 1
    I don't agree this distinction. If I say "Compared to sulphuric acid, water from open sewers in Calcutta is safe to drink", the presence of "compared to" forces you to conclude I'm claiming the sewage water is at least to some degree "safe to drink". Your "educated" example can only be valid because "education" spans a very broad range - if you choose to narrow it down to exclude rural folk, your sentence simply becomes badly-formed. The antecedent should then be "Unlike", rather than "Compared to". Feb 8 '12 at 16:43
  • A fine comment, but what is the difference between these two forms, please?
    – Gangnus
    Feb 8 '12 at 16:49
  • @Gangnus: Barrie's answer is correct. I assume he didn't include his comment about the comparative forms emphasise the distinction in the original text because in general this will neither be intended nor understood - it's not a "general truth" about the difference, so much as a fine distinction which could be made if you were forced to identify a difference (which Mohsen effectively did to him in his comment! :) Feb 8 '12 at 23:49

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