What’s the difference between meilleur and mieux ?
In a previous article, I explained the difference between bon and bien in French. You’ll need to understand it in order to make the difference between meilleur and mieux as well.
Indeed, meilleur and mieux are no other than irregular comparative forms of bon and bien.
Note: comparatives are used to compare things (makes sense!), in terms of:
- less (= comparative of inferiority)
examples: late → later ; expensive → less expensive; quickly → less quickly
- equal/same/as… (= comparative of equality)
examples: late → as late ; expensive → as expensive; quickly → as quickly
- more (= comparative of superiority)
examples: late → later (= more late); expensive → more expensive; quickly → more quickly
Let’s start with examples in English and have a look at the adjective good (bon) and the adverb well (bien):
|Comparative of inferiority||Comparative of equality||Comparative of superiority|
(ex: a good restaurant)
|This restaurant is less good than last weeks.||This restaurant is as good as last weeks.||This restaurant is
(more good = better)
|adverb||Well (ex: to speak French well)||She speaks French less well than me.||She speaks French as well as me.||She speaks French
(more well = better)
We can notice that:
- there’s no problem with the comparatives of inferiority and equality (and it will be the same in French);
- The forms for the comparatives of superiority are irregular:
“more good” becomes “better”;
“more well” becomes “better” too.
In French, the comparatives of superiority will also be irregular; we’ll have meilleur and mieux.
Because they are both translated by “better” in English, you’ll need to be able to identify whether you are using the adjective (bon/good) or the adverb (bien/well) in order to know which word to choose (between meilleur and mieux):
|Comparative of superiority|
(ex: un bon restaurant)
|Ce restaurant est
(plus bon = meilleur)
(ex: parler bien français)
(plus mieux = mieux)
- Adjectives need to agree (in gender and number) with the noun they describe; therefore their spelling can change: bon, bonne, bons, bonnes, meilleur, meilleure, meilleurs, meileures
Un ami (masc.sing) → un bon/meilleur ami
(a friend → a good/better friend)
Une pizza (fem.sing) → une bonne/meilleure pizza
- Adverbs are invariable, therefore the spelling of the words « bien » and « mieux» can never change.
Parler → Elle parle bien/mieux anglais.
(to speak → She speaks English well/better)
Test yourself with this free practice exercises about bon/bien, meilleur/mieux !