Meilleur, mieux, pire / plus mauvais, plus mal = better, best, worse and worst (irregular comparatives and superlatives)

Knowing when to use mieux and meilleur (better) can be tricky in French because we only have one form in English. It can seem even more complex to say the best, but here's what you need to remember in a nutshell:

- Meilleur/meilleure is the comparative form of the adjective bon/bonne
- Mieux is the comparative form of the adverb bien.

Therefore, whenever you would use bon/bonne (good), you'll use meilleur/e, and whenever you would use bien, you'll use mieux!

When to use bon/bonne (adjective) and therefore meilleur

In French, you'll use the adjective bon and its comparative meilleur when:

1.

qualifying something as good/better/the best for a usage, or good/better/the best in taste (food):

Tu préfères le chocolat ou la vanille ?
- La vanille, c'est bon, mais le chocolat, c'est meilleur !

Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?
- Vanilla is good, but chocolate is better!

Ces bonbons sont meilleurs que les tiens: ce sont les meilleurs du monde.
These sweets are better than yours: they are the best in the world.

Quel est le meilleur aspirateur?
Which is the best vacuum cleaner?

C'est la meilleure idée que tu aies jamais eue!
It's the best idea you've ever had!

2.

qualifying someone as a good/better/the best person or good/better/the best at something:

Ces deux-là sont les meilleures amies du monde !
These two are the best friends in the world!

Je suis bon en maths, mais il est meilleur en maths que moi.
I'm good at maths, but he is better at maths than me.

Je suis le meilleur de ma classe.
I'm the best in my class.

These forms come from:

- bon/bonne (good) -> meilleur/e (better) -> le/la meilleur/e (the best)
- bons / bonnes  -> meilleurs / meilleures  ->  les meilleurs / les meilleures

 

When to use bien (adverb) and therefore mieux

In French, you'll use the adverb bien and its comparative mieux when:

1.

making a general statement with être about something or someone being fine/OK/better/the best:

C'est bien d'y aller à pied, mais c'est mieux de prendre le bus.
It's fine to walk there, but it's better to take the bus.

Et si je le mets comme ça ? - Oui, c'est mieux.
And if I put it like this? - Yes, that's better.

Ta télé est bien mais la mienne est mieux.
Your TV is fine but mine is better.

Tu préfères courir ou nager?
- Nager, c'est mieux!

Do you prefer running or swimming?
- Swimming, it's better!

 

2. 

talking about an action (verb) being done well/better/the best: 

Laquelle de ces bouilloires marche le mieux?
Which of these kettles works the best?

De tous mes amis, tu es celui qui dessine le mieux.
Of all my friends, you're the one who draws the best.

Je cours bien, mais il court mieux que moi.
I run well, but he runs better than me.

Lady Gaga chante mieux que Lana Del Rey.
Lady Gaga sings better than Lana Del Rey.

These forms come from:

bien (well) -> mieux (better) -> le mieux (the best)

 

The negative cases are a bit different: 

- Plus mauvais(e) is the comparative form of the adjective mauvais/mauvaise;
Plus mal is the comparative form of the adverb mal
and
- Pire applies both to mauvais(e), and to general statements with être.

 

When to use pire or plus mauvais/e (adjective)

In French, you'll use the adjective mauvais and its comparative pire/plus mauvais when:

1.

qualifying something as bad/worse/the worst for a usage, or bad/worse/the worst in taste (food):

Ton accent est mauvais, mais mon accent est pire que le tien.
Your accent is bad, but my accent is worse than yours.

Ton accent est mauvais, mais mon accent est plus mauvais que le tien.
Your accent is bad, but my accent is worse than yours.

Ces voitures sont les pires du monde. 
Ces voitures sont les plus mauvaises du monde.

These cars are the worst in the world.

Ses résultats sont plus mauvais que l'année dernière.
His results are worse than last year.

Ses résultats sont pires que l'année dernière.
His results are worse than last year.

2.

qualifying someone as a bad/worse/the worstperson or bad/worse/the worst at something:

Clarisse est la plus mauvaise élève de ma classe.
Clarisse is the worst pupil in my class.

Matt et Sylvain sont les pires élèves de la classe.
Matt and Sylvain are the worst students in the class.

Béatrice est plus mauvaise en français que moi.
Beatrice is worse at French than I am.

Béatrice est pire en français que moi.
Beatrice is worse at French than I am.

ATTENTION:

You can never use plus pire, as pire already contains the idea of more

These forms come from: 

mauvais/e (bad) -> pire  /  plus mauvais/e  (worse)
                      -> le/la pire    /   le/la plus mauvais/e   (the worst)

pires / mauvais / mauvaises  ->  les pires / les plus mauvais / les plus mauvaises

   

When to use plus mal  (adverb)

In French, you'll use the adverb mal/plus mal when: 

talking about an action (verb) being done badly/worse/the worst: 

Pierre joue mal, mais Louis joue encore plus mal que lui.
Pierre plays badly, but Louis plays even more badly than him. 

De toute l'équipe, c'est Karl qui danse le plus mal.
Out of the whole team, Karl is the one who dances the worst.

These forms come from:

mal (badly) -> plus mal (more badly / worse) -> le plus mal (the worst)

 

When to use pire in general statements  (adverb)

In French, you'll use the adverb pire when:

making a general statement with être about something or someone being bad/worse/the worst:

C'est moins douloureux comme ça ? - Non, c'est pire !
Is it less painful like this? - No, it's worse!

C'est difficile de parler, mais c'est pire de se taire.
It's hard to talk, but it's worse to stay quiet.

Baptiste est mon pire ennemi.
Baptiste is my worst enemy.

 

 

For other Superlative forms, see:

Le, la, les plus and le, la, les moins = the most and the least (superlatives of adjectives)
Le plus and le moins = the most and the least (superlative of adverbs)

And for Comparative structures:

Plus... plus..., moins... moins... = the more...the more..., the less...the less... (comparisons with phrases)
Better and better, worse and worse = de mieux en mieux, de pire en pire (comparisons)
De plus en plus and de moins en moins = more and more and less and less (comparisons with adjectives, adverbs, verbs)
De plus en plus de and de moins en moins de = more and more and less and less (comparisons of nouns)
Making comparisons with adjectives: plus... que, aussi... que, moins... que
Making comparisons with adverbs: plus... que, aussi... que, moins... que
Making comparisons with verbs: plus que, autant que, moins que
Making comparisons with nouns: plus de... que, moins de... que, autant de... que 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Ses résultats sont plus mauvais que l'année dernière.
His results are worse than last year.


Ces voitures sont les pires du monde. 
Ces voitures sont les plus mauvaises du monde.

These cars are the worst in the world.


Ton accent est mauvais, mais mon accent est plus mauvais que le tien.
Your accent is bad, but my accent is worse than yours.


C'est la meilleure idée que tu aies jamais eue!
It's the best idea you've ever had!


Quel est le meilleur aspirateur?
Which is the best vacuum cleaner?


Matt et Sylvain sont les pires élèves de la classe.
Matt and Sylvain are the worst students in the class.


C'est le pire examen du monde.
It's the worst exam in the world.


Ta télé est bien mais la mienne est mieux.
Your TV is fine but mine is better.


Tu préfères courir ou nager?
- Nager, c'est mieux!

Do you prefer running or swimming?
- Swimming, it's better!


Ces deux-là sont les meilleures amies du monde !
These two are the best friends in the world!


Ses résultats sont pires que l'année dernière.
His results are worse than last year.


Lady Gaga chante mieux que Lana Del Rey.
Lady Gaga sings better than Lana Del Rey.


De toute l'équipe, c'est Karl qui danse le plus mal.
Out of the whole team, Karl is the one who dances the worst.


C'est bien d'y aller à pied, mais c'est mieux de prendre le bus.
It's fine to walk there, but it's better to take the bus.


Je suis bon en maths, mais il est meilleur en maths que moi.
I'm good at maths, but he is better at maths than me.


Baptiste est mon pire ennemi.
Baptiste is my worst enemy.


Laquelle de ces bouilloires marche le mieux?
Which of these kettles works the best?


Tu préfères le chocolat ou la vanille ?
- La vanille, c'est bon, mais le chocolat, c'est meilleur !

Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?
- Vanilla is good, but chocolate is better!


Cette soupe est meilleure que la précédente.
This soup is better than the previous one.


Pierre joue mal, mais Louis joue encore plus mal que lui.
Pierre plays badly, but Louis plays even more badly than him. 


Et si je le mets comme ça ? - Oui, c'est mieux.
And if I put it like this? - Yes, that's better.


Je cours bien, mais il court mieux que moi.
I run well, but he runs better than me.


Béatrice est pire en français que moi.
Beatrice is worse at French than I am.


Je suis le meilleur de ma classe.
I'm the best in my class.


C'est difficile de parler, mais c'est pire de se taire.
It's hard to talk, but it's worse to stay quiet.


Ton accent est mauvais, mais mon accent est pire que le tien.
Your accent is bad, but my accent is worse than yours.


Clarisse est la plus mauvaise élève de ma classe.
Clarisse is the worst pupil in my class.


"Superlatives" by Jacqueline Doiron (FrenchByPhone.com)


Béatrice est plus mauvaise en français que moi.
Beatrice is worse at French than I am.


De tous mes amis, tu es celui qui dessine le mieux.
Of all my friends, you're the one who draws the best.


C'est moins douloureux comme ça ? - Non, c'est pire !
Is it less painful like this? - No, it's worse!



Ces bonbons sont meilleurs que les tiens: ce sont les meilleurs du monde.
These sweets are better than yours: they are the best in the world.


Q&A

Bill

Kwiziq community member

10 November 2018

0 replies

Bonjour - can someone take a look at this and advise if correct?

Ma mère est bien.  Mais je crois que mon père est généralement mieux que ma mère, parce qu’il a une bonne disposition.  

Vous nagez très bien.  En fait, je pense que vous nagez peut-être mieux que tous les autres.  Vous nagez le mieux, il n’y a aucune question à propos de ça. 

Merci d'avance.

Louise

Kwiziq community member

5 November 2018

0 replies

This is an enormous lesson! Could it be broken down into several more manageable, (for me), lessons?

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2018

2 replies

Should it not be la mieux?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 October 2018

30/10/18

Hi Varsha,

You cannot say:

"Laquelle de ces  bouilloires  marchent  la mieux" ,  it is, le mieux , because of the verb 'marcher':

'le mieux' is an adverb as it modifies the verb 'marcher'.

You might say/ hear:

C'est la chanteuse la mieux payée au monde entier  = She is the best paid singer in the whole world

or 

C'est la banque la mieux représentée en Angleterre = This is the bank best represented in England

as here,  la mieux 

modifies the adjective and can agree with the noun although some purists would dispute this and say that it is better French to use 'le mieux' also in both those examples

But you will hear both...

Hope this helps!

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

30 October 2018

30/10/18

Thanks a lot Ma'am

Really grateful 

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2018

1 reply

Laquelle de ces bouilloires marche le mieux?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 October 2018

30/10/18

Answered ...

Marnie

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2018

1 reply

Bon-bien etc...Love this discussion

Excellent example of the great design of the teaching/learning structure in Progress with LF.  All these different approaches to the linguistic thought process result in "understanding why" rather than remembering (or trying to remember!)

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

25 October 2018

25/10/18

Merci bien! Marnie...

James

Kwiziq community member

14 July 2018

2 replies

Can pire be used in the feminine form, e.g. Marie est la pire?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

15 July 2018

15/07/18

Hi James, 

Yes you could say 'la pire' in the case of feminine nouns.

C'est la pire des choses = It's the worst of things

C'est la pire erreur jamais faite = It's the worst mistake ever made

C'est la pire décision de ma vie = It's the worst decision of my life

Hope this helps!

James

Kwiziq community member

15 July 2018

15/07/18

Many thanks. The feminine example was not demonstrated in the tutorial.

D

Kwiziq community member

17 May 2018

1 reply

Vacuum and kettle ??

Quel est le meilleur aspirateur? is a usage  ( non action )

where as Laquelle de ces bouilloires marche le mieux?  uses a verb action ?  i.e the kettle works  ?   

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

18 May 2018

18/05/18

HI D,

If I have understood your question correctly, your query is why we use 'mieux' in the case of the kettle example?

'mieux' follows the verb marcher and is the comparative form of the adverb 'bien'.

bon ----meilleur

bien----mieux

e.g.

C'est une bonne bouilloire mais celle-ci marche mieux.

Hope this helps!

Christina

Kwiziq community member

5 May 2018

6 replies

bien et mieux in this sentence

I just don't understand why this sentence uses an adverb, rather than an adjective :

Ta télé est bien, mais la mienne est mieux. 
I would think it'd use : Ta télé est bonne, mais la mienne est meilleure. 

Thank you for your explanation!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 May 2018

5/05/18

Hi Christina, I believe this question has been asked and explained several times. You should find answers among the posts underneath the corresponding lesson. 

-- Chris. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

6 May 2018

6/05/18

Hi Christina,

'Bien' and 'Bon' have lots of different meanings in French and you will find multiple columns devoted to them in dictionaries depending on their particular meanings.

In this case, 'bien' is actually an adjective ( I know, wierd!). It is used to mean 'pleasing' as good/fine. e.g.

Ce tableau est bien.

Ce film est bien.

OR when speaking of a person:

"C'est un homme bien" = "He is a good man "( in a moral sense).

or "Il est bien, ton ami "= meaning, "He is good-looking, your friend."

In the case of a tv , if you said, "la télé est bonne", it sounds really odd in French and you can almost think that you have tried to eat it ...

You can say - "C'est une bonne télé." (meaning it works well, fulfills its role as a tv...)

I know it's confusing but hope this helps!

Arndís

Kwiziq community member

11 May 2018

11/05/18

I have all the same questions as Christina and many others here, and I've read all the answer over and over again, but I still don't get it. It seems to be absolutely random and just something you have to learn by feeling with time. 

Esther

Kwiziq community member

7 June 2018

7/06/18

I think that was a very well explained answer Cecil. Merci beaucoup!

Radu

Kwiziq community member

1 October 2018

1/10/18

Merci Cecile, ton reponse est tres bien! 

Kevin

Kwiziq community member

13 November 2018

13/11/18

I'm with Arndis on this... really beginning to hate just how inutilement compliquée French is! :-(

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

29 March 2018

4 replies

Word order of jamais " ever "

Whenever I have jamais as in ever after a verb (like in, " que tu aies jamais eue! " the French spellcheck tries to correct it to add a ne to make jamais mean never. So I thought you had to put jamais right after the subject pronoun (" si jamais je le trouve. ") This isn't the case here, though, so that's confusing.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

14 April 2018

14/04/18

Grammar checkers are, unfortunately, still very unreliable. You can't trust them I'm afraid. The same goes for software translation. They're getting better every year but don't rely on them to learn grammar!

More info here:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/french-grammar-checkers

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

15 April 2018

15/04/18

So was I right or not? Do you put " ever " before the verb? You're ignoring my question.

Also, grammar checkers have done a LOT to help me do stuff like remember which genders words are and to make adjectives agree in gender with the nouns right and sometimes they correct the tense for me and all that other stuff, so you're not giving them enough credit for beginners here.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

15 April 2018

15/04/18

So long as you cross check whatever the grammar checker is telling you and don't just trust that it's true, they can be useful. The issue is people assuming they're "authoritative" sources when in reality they're often completely wrong or misleading.

You're right though, I did forget to answer the actual question. :)

Jamais meaning "ever" can go in various places in sentences.

"Si jamais..." (If ever...) is a very common expression. You could also say "Si je jamais..." but it's much less common.

Other useful expression:

"... que jamais" (...than ever) after a comparative.

"...à jamais" (... for ever)

"...à tout jamais" (for ever and ever).

Hope that helps.

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

22 April 2018

22/04/18

Thank you. Cross-checking every single time ever when the grammar checker underlines something sounds really annoying, though. It mostly underlines mistakes I made that I didn't notice that I knew better to not do like not agreeing in gender and number or it tells me what's the Imperfect Subjunctive when I'm completely at a loss. I say it's about as useful as the English grammar checker, at the very least.

Dragana

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2018

1 reply

Comparatives/Superlatives - Bon/Bien/Meilleur/Mieux etc

this is one of the most difficult exercises for me to understand - whilst I read all your examples over and over, I still cannot grasp the usage - It is possible to have a quiz on just this exercise? With lots of questions and either fill in the blanks or complete the sentence with own text? I need BOOT CAMP on this. cheers Dragana

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2018

5/02/18

Hi Dragana, you are definitely not alone on this. While the topic is too large to answer here in the forum, I definitely think that it would benefit from more and more specific lessons and exercises. I hope someone from kwiziq is going to take notice, because there have been many questions about this topic. -- Chris.
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