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I know what they mean; however, I'm not sure what the difference is. Does the difference have anything to do with formality?

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    I think「早いほどいい」 is 「 早ければ早いほどいい」, isn't it? – HK boy Jan 12 at 17:24
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I assume that「早いほどいい」 is 「早ければ早いほどいい」, so:

  • 早いほうがいい: it should be early/soon; if not early/soon, it's not really good.
  • (早ければ) 早いほどいい: as soon as possible, not early is OK.

For example:

  • 「あなたは 歯医者へ行くのは 早いほうがいい。」: You should go to the dentist soon, if you not, your teeth will be more hurt.
  • 「あなたは 歯医者へ行くのは 早ければ 早いほどいい。」: You booked a date to go to the dentist, the dentist says you should go as soon as possible (it depends on your schedule).
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Thanks! I managed to figure it out myself tho. Both mean the same thing "The sooner, the better"

ほうが is used to compare nouns ほうが+いい which, in this case, translates lit. to sooner is better (doing sth sooner is better)

ほど can be used with different parts of speech (verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc.), and depending on what sounds natural in English it can be translated to "The sooner you do sth, the better" as well. However, there are other ways to translate it.

So, it was important to establish the context first. The person wanted to call the police, and, I believe, she said sth like "Calling the cops is our only choice" and then added 早いほうがいい which means "(Calling them) sooner (than later) is better." Omissions are quite common in spoken Japanese, right? :)

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