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Comparison & Contrast

Warm-up activity: Please find out the similarities and differences in the following two pictures:

If you are figuring out the similarities, you are making a comparison of these two pictures.

If you are figuring out the differences, you are making a contrast of these two pictures.

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Comparison or contrast paragraphs are used to show similarities or differences between two things. A comparison paragraph focuses on similarities, while a contrast paragraph on differences. Comparison and contrast are frequently combined to give a full treatment of a topic. However, A paragraph usually concentrates only on similarities or differences, not both at the same time.

Please keep in mind the following points:
Only subjects of the same general class can be compared/contrasted. The comparison/contrast should be supported by concrete and relevant facts. Don’t pay equal attention to comparison and contrast.

Though on the surface there seem to be some slight differences between the Russian workman and the American labor, basically they are much a like. To be sure, the one speaks Russian and the other speaks English; the one most likely lives in a government housing unit while the other may own his own home; the one likes borscht and the other prefers meat and potatoes and gravy. But their similarities far outweigh any differences you may notice. Both fall in love with the girl of their dreams; both celebrate a wedding as hilariously as they can afford; both rejoice at the birth of a son or daughter; both worry about their little ones when they are sick; both grieve when death enters the family. In these fundamental issues of life they are essentially the same. And so it is that, regardless of the official policies of their governments, when you come right down to it, both sincerely and dearly want peace to prevail.

The purposes of Comparison and Contrast
With comparison and contrast, the purpose is not just to point out similarities and differences or advantages and disadvantages, but to present information about something unfamiliar by comparing it with something familiar; to show the superiority of one thing by contrasting it with another; to show the similarities or differences of two things to help the reader evaluate them.

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The signal words of comparison
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The words that indicate similarity in meaning, such as “like”, “alike”, “similar to” and so on.

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The words that express parallel in structure, such as “either…or…”, “not only…but also…”, “both…and…” and so on.

Some sample expressions: ? There are several similarities between A and B. ? A and B have the same view of the world. ? A and B have a lot in common. ? In common with A, B prefers meat to fish. ? A resembles B in that A is also interested in collecting stamps. ? Just as A likes to be quiet, B likes to stay alone. ? Like A, B likes outdoor sports. ? A likes swimming. The same with A, B also likes swimming. ? A and B are the same in that they both like swimming in the sea. ? A and B have the same interests. ? A likes swimming in a pond; similarly, B likes swimming in the sea. ? Both A and B have long hair. ? A likes fishing. B likes fishing, too. ? A likes swimming, so does B.

The signal words of contrast
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The words that express “difference” in meaning, such as “be different from”, “differ from” and so on. The words that present comparative degree, such as “faster…than”, “taller…than” and so on. The words that indicate a turning or concession, such as “though”, “but” and so on.

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Some sample expressions:
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Unlike A, B likes outdoor sports. In contrast to A, B likes outdoor sports. Different from A, B likes outdoor sports. Contrary to A, B likes outdoor sports. As opposed to A, B likes outdoor sports. A is different from B in that B likes outdoor sports. A differs from B in that B likes outdoor sports. A contrasts with B in that B likes outdoor sports. A likes indoor activities; however/ in contrast/ by contrast/ on the other hand, B likes outdoor sports. A likes indoor activities; B, however, likes outdoor sports. A likes indoor activities, but B likes outdoor sports. A likes indoor activities, whereas / while B likes outdoor sports. A is not as active as B. A is more /less active than B.

How to write a paragraph by comparison and contrast The topic sentence ? In a comparison or contrast paragraph, usually, the topic sentence introduces the two things to be compared or contrasted and the controlling idea---points of comparison or contrast. ? The topic sentence should also indicate the emphasis of the paragraph, either similarities or differences.

Compare the following two topic sentences and see which one is better. 1) Although both our pet cats look lovely, their differences in temperament is constant source of amusement. 2) Our two pet cats are quite different.
Topic sentence 2 is too general to be developed in one paragraph. it does not restrict the controlling ideas as to what points of the two cats to contrast. Topic sentence 1 not only indicates the point to be contrasted but also reveals that the purpose of the writer is not just to show the difference but to reveal a source of amusement. Topic sentence 1 acknowledges the obvious similarity of the two pet cats, and then indicates the differences as the focus of the paragraph.

The supporting sentences There are two basic patterns for the structure of the supporting sentences in a comparison and contrast paragraph.

The alternating pattern (point-to-point)

The block pattern (side-to-side)

examining two things at the same time, discussing them point by point

examining one thing thoroughly and then start the other

Suppose we are to compare two cars: car X and car Y. The points to be compared might be: 1) the cost of maintenance 2) performance 3) comfort

The alternating pattern
Topic sentence: X is a better car than Y in terms of the cost of maintenance, performance and comfort. Supporting sentences: Car X point 1: Cost of maintenance
Car Y Car X

point 2: Performance

Car Y

point 3: Comfort

Car X Car Y

The same qualities that make people good house guests make them good hospital patients. Good house guests can expect a reasonable amount of service and effort on their behalf, and hospital patients can also. Guests have to adjust to what is for them a change, and certainly hospital patients must do the same. No one appreciates a complaining, unpleasant, unappreciative house guest, and the hospital staff is no exception. House guests who expect vast changes to be made for their benefit are not popular for long. Certainly nurses and other personnel with their routines feel the same way about patients in their care. Just as house guests must make adjustments to enjoy their visits, so patients must make adjustments to make their stays reasonably pleasant and satisfying under the circumstances.

Life in the city is quite different from life in the suburbs. People living in the city are constantly exposed to the hustle and bustle of urban life. But life in the suburbs is generally quiet and casual and generally more low-key than that in the city. If city dwellers want to see trees and grass, they must go to one of the public parks. One the other hand, the streets of many suburban communities are lined with trees and each house has its own grassy yard. A person living in the city is close to many sources of entertainment, but people living in suburban areas must go into the city for entertainment.

The block pattern
Topic sentence: X is a better car than Y in terms of the cost of maintenance, performance and comfort. Supporting sentences: Side A: Car X 1. Cost of Maintenance The points of 2. Performance comparison or 3. Comfort contrast are the same Side B: Car Y and that they are 1. Cost of maintenance discussed in the same 2. Performance order under each side. 3. Comfort

Although Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee were fierce adversaries during the Civil War, their lives, both military and nonmilitary, had a great deal in common. Grant descended from a family whose members participated in the American Revolution. He received his commission of second lieutenant from West Point and served in the Spanish-American War. He was later summoned by President Lincoln to assume command of the Union Forces during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Grant suffered financial problems and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Lee also descended from a family which engaged in the American Revolution. He, too, received his commission from West Point and later fought in Mexico during the Spanish-American War. His fame as a military strategist during the Civil War, when he was the commander of the Confederate armies, is well known. Although it is not always pointed out by historians, he, like Grant, hand financial difficulties after the Civil War and was compelled to declare bankruptcy. By securing a post as president of Washington College, he was able to avoid additional poverty.

There is an essential difference between a news story, as understood by a newspaperman or a wire-service writer, and the newsmagazine story. The chief purpose of the conventional news story is to tell what happened. It starts with the most important information and continues into increasingly inconsequential details, not only because the reader may not read beyond the first paragraph but because an editor working on galley proofs a few minutes before press time likes to be able to cut freely from the end of the story. A news magazine is very different. It is written to be read consecutively from beginning to end, and each of its stories is designed, following the critical theories of Edgar Allen Poe, to create one emotional effect. The news, what happened that week, may be told in the beginning, the middle, or the end; for the purpose is not to throw information at the reader but to seduce him into reading the whole story, and into accepting the dramatic (and often political) point being made.

The diagram of the two patterns
alternating SS SS block

P1

P2

P3

SA

SB

A1

B1

A2

B2

A3

B3

A1

B1

C1

B1

B2

B3

The use of the two patterns
The block pattern is useful in short writing where only a few points to be discussed. ? The alternating pattern is preferable in long writing in which there are numerous points under discussion. ? Generally speaking, the block pattern is used less often than the alternating pattern.
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The concluding sentence
No matter whether it is a comparison or contrast paragraph, the concluding sentence is usually a restatement of the topic sentence or a summary of the points compared or contrasted in the development of the paragraph.

My hometown is quite different from what it used to be. Just a little more that ten years ago my hometown was a small quiet place. The houses were small and mean. The streets were for the most part narrow and winding. There were few people in the streets and shops. Now, everything The concluding sentence restates the main idea in every direction from the has changed. Looking “different” in the topic center of thesentence. one sees a long succession of town, giant, imposing buildings. The streets, whether long or short, are straight, spacious, and wellshaded. Crowds of people can be found here and there, hurrying, noisy, and well-dressed. From a dull little village with clusters of shabby houses in the past, my hometown has now transformed into a big city, cheerful, colorful, and prosperous.

Which sentence is the topic sentence? And what is the controlling Great (1) Though the governments of idea? Britain and the United

States are quite different, they share basic similarities in the form of the government some aspects. (2) First, the British Parliament is made up of two separate houses --- the British House of Commons, What are the main of Lords. (3) Likewise, the U. S. and the British Houseideas of the compared points? Congress has two divisions --- the House of Representatives and the Senate. (4) Next, the essential function of the British Parliament is to make laws; a bill has the law making function the appointment of the cabinet to be presented to both houses for debate to get passed before it can become a law. (5) In the United States, the House of Representatives and the Senate play similar functions. (6) Third, the Prime Minister in Great Britain What pattern does this paragraph employ? appoints the members of the cabinet, who serve as advisors and make government policies. (7) In the same the veto right manner, the U. S. President appoints his cabinet, which is composed of heads of the governmental departments. (8) Please underline the signal words for Finally, the British monarch (queen or king) has the right to veto any comparison U. S. President can also refuse to sign law. (9) The any bill passed by the Congress.

point-to-point

(1) in the lives and deaths of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. (2) For example, Kennedy was elected in 1960 while Lincoln assumed the Presidency in 1860. (3) Both men were assassinated from behind, on a Friday, and in the presence of their wives. (4) Both assassins, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswild,point-to-point in their names, have fifteen letters and both were murdered before they could be brought to trial. (5)Perhaps the strangest What pattern does this paragraph employ? coincidence is that Kennedy's secretary, whose name was Lincoln, advised him not to go to Dallas where he was shot. (6) Lincoln’s secretary, whose name was Kennedy, advised him not to go to the Ford Theater where he met his death.

Which sentence is the topic sentence? FewAnd what is the controlling idea? can deny the strange coincidences

Assignment:
Please write a paragraph based on the following beginning: The Spring Festival is celebrated by the Chinese people; Christmas is celebrated by Westerners. Though they have different cultural backgrounds, the two holidays are alike in some aspects. The paragraph is about 100-150 words.


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