I've found this sentence in a text book. The paragraph begins with this sentence.
On the other hand many older Americans prefer to live in smaller towns.
'Smaller' is the comparative form of 'small'. Why is there a comparative form of 'small'? Where's the comparison?
Thanks in advance
Thank you for your reply.
That's what I thought too. Here is the previous paragraph:
Of course not everyone agrees on the best place to live. Different people choose to live in different places. For instance young people prefer to live in cities. They choose big cities like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Martin Beck agrees with this. He lives in Boston. “I love living in the city,” says Martin. “There are great museums, restaurants, and movie theaters. There are a lot of jobs here, too.”
Is the sentence in blue the one? But the sentence only talks about 'cities'.
"Smaller" here means compared to "big cities", i.e. towns smaller than N.Y., Boston, and L.A. FYI, "city" is already understood to be "bigger" than "town", so even with no context, a native speaker would (should?) understand the original phrase you posted.
The towns are smaller than the cities.
I always thought of such cases this way: smaller can only be used to compare two objects (you can't say the smaller of the three, and shouldn't say the smallest of the two); so, to me, "smaller cities" vaguely divides all cities into two groups, the larger half and the smaller half. Vaguely. It's just the way I conceptualise this.