Unit Five 

Joining Sentences to Show Comparison and Contrast

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In your college courses, and in your personal lives and professional careers as well, you will frequently compare and contrast people, things, or ideas. Employers often must compare and contrast two or more job applicants, college students may compare and contrast two historical periods, and people often compare and contrast two products they are considering buying, or two people they know. By joining ideas or information with coordinators and subordinators, you can clearly show similarities and differences to your reader with longer mature sentences rather than choppy short ones.


For example, because two college freshmen, George and Paul, are twin brothers, we expect them to be similar, but they are actually different in some ways. Here are random lists of information we have gathered about them:


George                                                                Paul


is tall and slim                                                     has brown eyes and brown hair

likes to read science fiction                                 is tall and slim

runs three miles daily                                          still hasn't found a major

has brown eyes and brown hair                           likes to read poetry

works as a cartographer's  assistant 15 hours

per week                                                          hates to exercise

is an engineering major                                       works 20 hours per week as an usher in a



The above information about the twins is not listed in any organized way. So after we gather information about two subjects (in this case, the twins), the next step toward comparing and contrasting them is to organize the lists according to related points; here are the twins' physical descriptions, interests, jobs, and college majors:


George                                                                Paul


has brown hair and brown eyes                           has brown hair and brown eyes

is tall and slim                                                     is tall and slim

likes to read science fiction                                  likes to read poetry

runs three miles daily                                          hates to exercise

works as a cartographer's assistant 15 hours       works 20 hours per week as an usher in a

    per week                                                                      theater

is an engineering major                                       still hasn't found a major


We can now express the similarities and differences between the twins in sentences using the coordinators and subordinators that you reviewed in Units 3 and 4.




Exercise One  George and Paul


The sentences below express the similarities and differences between the twins George and Paul. In each sentence, circle the joining word(s) that show comparison or contrast and then list the words you've circled below.



1.     Both George and Paul have brown eyes and brown hair.


2.     George and Paul both are tall and slim.


3.     George likes to read science fiction, but Paul likes to read poetry.


4.     George runs three miles daily, yet Paul hates to exercise.


5.     While George works as a cartographer's assistant 15 hours per week, Paul works 20 hours per week as an usher in a theater.


6.     Although George is an engineering major, Paul still hasn't found a major.


Comparison Words                                      Contrast Words









In addition to showing the similarities and differences between people, we often compare and contrast behavior, cultures, theories, points of view on an issue, the positive and negative features of something, or the past with the present. The exercises in this unit give you practice in using coordinators and subordinators to compare and contrast activities, cultures, and a past and present condition. The following chart summarizes the words that show the logical relationships of comparison and contrast.


Summary of Comparison and Contrast Words


Comparison                          Contrast


COORDINATORS                and                                          but, yet


SUBORDINATORS              although

                                                even though





TRANSITION WORDS        however

                                                on the other hand


Coordinators can join sentences and begin sentences. When they join sentences, place a comma before the coordinator.


Kim likes heavy metal, but Tom prefers classical music.

Kim likes heavy metal. But Tom prefers classical music.


Subordinators join dependent clauses to sentences. When the dependent clause comes first, place a comma after it; if the dependent clause follows the independent clause, don't use a comma.


While Kim likes prime rib, Tom prefers rice and vegetables.

Kim likes prime rib while Tom prefers rice and vegetables.


Transition words do not join sentences; you have to use a semicolon (;) to join the sentences or begin a new sentence with the transition word.


Kim and Tom have different tastes in music and food; however, they both like to dance.


Kim and Tom have different tastes in music and food. However, they both like to dance.





Exercise Two  Getting in Shape


Carl wants to begin a regular exercise program, but he can't decide between running and walking. To make a rational choice, he lists what he knows about each activity:



Running                                                               Walking


improves cardiovascular endurance                        can be done in an urban or rural area

hums 800 to 1000 calories per hour                       is relatively injury-free

can be done in an urban or rural area                      requires no special equipment

can cause shinsplints and muscle strain                  improves circulation and posture

requires no special equipment                                bums 300 calories per hour



Step 1:            Organize the two lists according to related points:



Running                                                                    Walking


1.         can be done in a rural or urban area                             can be done in a rural or urban area























Step 2:            Using the coordinators and, but, and yet, and the subordinators while, whereas, although, ( or even though), write five sentences in which you compare and contrast running and walking, using the information you organized in step 1.




























Exercise Three  The Nuer and the Bakhteri


In this exercise, you will compare and contrast two cultures—the Nuer and the Bakhteri. Here are random lists of information about the two cultures:


The Nuer                                                               The Bakhteri


are pastoral people                                                  men herd the sheep and goats

divide labor according to sex                                  live in Southern Iran

occupy a flat, grassy region                                    are pastoral people

use products from cattle for shelter and food         raise sheep and goats

live in the Sudan                                                     divide labor according to sex

raise dairy cattle                                                      occupy a mountainous area

women herd the cattle                                              use products from sheep and goats for shelter

    and food



Step 1: Complete the following lists by organizing the information according to related points.


The Nuer                                                        The Bakhteri


1.         are pastoral people                                           are pastoral people



2.         live in the Sudan                                              live in Southern Iran




















Step 2:       Write sentences in which you join related similarities and differences using the coordinators and subordinators that show comparison and contrast. Follow the examples below.


1.         Both the Nuer and the Bakhteri are pastoral people.


2.         The Nuer live in the Sudan while the Bakhteri live in Southern Iran.


You should create five more sentences from your lists in step 1. Be sure to use a variety of coordinators and subordinators that show contrast.


















Exercise Four  The Netsilik and the Trobriands


Following the two steps you took in Exercises 2 and 3, compare and contrast two cultures-the Netsilik and the Trobriands. Organize the lists; then write six sentences using joining words that show comparison and contrast.


The Netsilik                                     The Trobriands

hunt seals and caribou                       live in villages all year

occupy a cold desert environment      value the extended family

live on the Arctic Coast                      are horticulturists whose primary crop is yams

migrate seasonally                             occupy warm coral islands

build houses of snow and ice             live on the Trobriand islands off the coast of New


value the extended family                   build wooden houses clustered in small villages


Step 1:      Organize the lists.

































Step 2:        Combine related points into sentences using coordinators and subordinators.

































      Comparing the Present and the Past


While attending her 10 year high school reunion, Jonita saw her old boyfriend Peter, whom she hadn't seen since graduation. She was surprised by the changes in him, and wrote a letter to her best friend describing the changes:


Peter has changed a great deal in the last ten years. Although Peter had curly red hair ten years ago, he now has almost no hair at all. While he once played basketball, now he just watches sports on TV. He hated to read in school, but now he reads all the time. In high school, he wanted to be an engineer, but today he teaches history at a junior college. Most importantly, in high school, he vowed to stay single forever, yet now he is a married man with two children.


When we compare and contrast the past with the present, we have to be careful of verb tenses so that the time is clear for our readers. Notice that Jonita uses the past tense forms of verbs to describe Peter's condition 10 years ago and present tense forms of verbs to describe the way he is now. Watch for time words that indicate which tense should be used:



Time                                  Past Tense                                Time                        Present Tense


10 years ago                     had curly red hair                       now                         has almost no hair

once                                   played                                        now                         watches

in school                            hated                                          now                         reads

in high school                    wanted                                        today                       teaches

once                                   vowed                                         now                         is




Exercise Five  The Middleton Boom


In the following paragraph, fill in each blank with the correct tense of the given verb. Notice that the topic sentence makes it clear that the paragraph will show the differences between Middleton in the past and Middleton now. (It helps to skim the entire passage before filling in the blanks.)


The town of Middleton has changed a great deal in thirty years. Thirty years ago, its population



            3,000, while now it                   43,000 . Many of the current residents now                in the

   be                                         be                                                                                work


insurance business, a business that              not exist until 1970, when Pay Up Insurance Company



                  its headquarters there. Immediately the insurance business                       unemployed

establish                                                                                                    attract


workers from all over the state who in turn                      the need for new services. Before 1970,



Middleton                  no libraries, yet now it                 three, each adjacent to new high schools,

                      have                                            have


which              built within a three-year period from 1979 to 1982. Students graduating from middle



school formerly                to high school in a neighboring town, but now they                  school in

                               go                                                                                          attend


their home town.