How to Teach As… as

By Alex Case
Comparing phrases and idioms with as… as teaching tips

Expressions like “as big as” and “not as tall as” are incredibly useful for comparing and in some ways easier than comparatives like “shorter than”, but are much less taught and often avoided by students. There are also common idioms like “as hard as nails” which both show the meaning of this grammar and are useful vocabulary items. This article gives some stimulating ways to present and practise these structures.

Depending on the level of your students, there are several aspects of “(not) as… as” which are worth teaching:

  • “not as… as” with the opposite adjective as a replacement for a comparative (“not as heavy as” for “lighter than”, etc)
  • “not as… as” as a more common and conversational way of saying “less… than” (“not as long as” meaning “less long than”, etc)
  • “(exactly/ just/ almost) as… as” to mean “the same… as” (“as durable as” meaning “with the same durability as”, etc)
  • common collocations with “as… as” (“not nearly as…as”, “not quite as… as”, etc, including common idioms like “as good as gold” and “as quiet as a mouse”)
  • leaving out the first “as” (“It’s clear as mud” etc)
  • “not so… as…” as an alternative negative form

How to present as… as

This is usually done fairly well in textbooks, with texts using context like “I’m more skilful than my brother, but he’s as hard working as me”, often with visual clues such as graphs. After doing a comprehension task like matching the descriptions to pictures or graphs, students can find expressions with “as” which mean “less than”, “the same as” and “more than (with the opposite adjective)”.

How to practise as… as

As… as sentence transformations (memory game)

Perhaps the best controlled practice of this grammar, is Cambridge PET/ Cambridge First-style key-word sentence transformations like:

“He has the same salary as me.

He is _______________________ as I am. PAID

Answer: He is as well paid as I am.”

If “as… as” is especially important for your students, these kinds of sentence transformations can be made into two-sided cards which students can transform back and forth until they remember both ways like: “It is warmer than I expected. It is not ______________ thought it would be. COLD” on one side of the card and “It is not as cold as I thought it would be. It ________________ expected. THAN” on the other.

These cards can be made into more of a game by students doing as many transformations as they can until they make a mistake, with the longest string of correct guesses during the game winning. Correctly guessed ones should stay the other way up to be done in the opposite direction next time.

These kinds of memory games can also be used with much simpler cards with a comparative on one side and “not as… as” with the opposite adjective on the other, as in “faster”/ “not as slow as”.

Speaking practice for as… as

Freer practice of “(not) as… as” is basically anything that involves lots of comparing, for example:

  • putting things on a ranked list, e.g. a top ten things to take on a survival weekend
  • debates where they say why their choice is better than their partner’s, e.g. why their hometown is a better holiday destination

(Not) as… as discuss and agree

Students try to make sentences with “as… as” that they both agree with like “This city is not nearly as trendy as New York”, using suggested topics, adjectives and/ or collocations with “as” etc to help.

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Written by Alex Case for Teflnet June 2023
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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