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In Genki I, chapter 10 I've learned:

AのほうがBより(property)。 A is more (property) than B.

Example: 中国のほうが日本より大きいです。

Now I just came across the following example sentence:

新かん線はふつうの電車より速いです。 The Shinkansen is faster than a normal train.

Which makes it seem to me that it is also valid to say:

AはBより(property)。A is more (property) than B.

Example: 中国は日本より大きいです。

My interpretation is that のほうが just means "the way of..." and is not really needed or related to making comparisons.

Is this correct and if so, why does Genki teach comparisons with のほうが instead of the more simple way with just the は particle?

EDIT: I think it's not a duplicate as suggested because this is mainly about the role of the 「のほうが」 part.

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I'm not a Japanese education expert so I can only guess, but certainly I can point out some advantages of teaching AのほうがBより construction for comparison.

  1. Modularity

    As you may already know, Japanese doesn't have the comparative form of adjective. Thus if you want to express that in English, you have to get help from other pieces of word. If you have learned comparison in AのほうがBより pattern, you're also able to extract sub-expressions only containing either A or B.

    中国のほうが日本より大きいです。 China is larger than Japan.
    日本より大きいです。 (It is) larger than Japan.
    中国のほうが大きいです。 China is larger.
    cf. 中国は大きいです。 China is large.

  2. Topic neutrality

    The English sentence "A is more X than B" can be used whenever you want to tell the fact. However, AはBよりX is not so much in this form, because it involves topic management required by Japanese grammar.

    アメリカはカナダより大きいですか。 Is US larger than Canada?

    × カナダはアメリカより大きいです。
    ○ カナダがアメリカより大きいです。 It is Canada that is larger than US.
    ○ カナダのほうがアメリカより大きいです。
    ○ アメリカはカナダほど大きくありません。 US is not as large as Canada.

    Providing they have never mentioned Canada in previous conversation and are not going to, the first response turns very unnatural. If a learner was taught in this pattern and reproduce it without thinking, they might end up uttering ungrammatical sentence occasionally (and as you may know too, when to use は is a big headache to learners from most part of the world). On this point, Aのほうが is more safer option with presumably less frowns.


Further reading: 比較表現「A は B より~」再考 -日本語教育における的確な導入例を考える-

  • Very interesting, thank you! The most interesting example to me is 「中国のほうが大きいです」. I was not aware of the fact that 「のほうが」 is used to mark the part that is "more" and that it can be used without the 「より」. Is this summary correct: 「Xより」marks X as being "less", 「Xのほうが」marks X as being "more"? – no1dea Nov 21 '18 at 10:10
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    @no1dea The normal way I think to understand is that Xより = "than X". Japanese particles take nouns before it (they're called postpositions). Xのほう literally means "X's side", and "the side X stands is big" is the only way to unambiguously translate "X is bigger". – broccoli forest Nov 22 '18 at 2:15

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