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Apples and oranges facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Czigány, Dezső - Still-life with Apples and Oranges (ca 1910)
Still-life with Apples and Oranges by Dezső Czigány, c. 1910

Apples and oranges is a common English idiom. It is used to describe unlike objects or people. One of the most well-known bits of popular wisdom in the English-speaking world is that apples and oranges cannot be compared. The ability to tell apples from oranges is learned.

The phrase is almost always used along with a warning that things in different categories cannot be compared, or that the comparison is improper.


This idiom began as a comparison of "apples and oysters" in a book of proverbs published in 1670. This idiom has become a marker in English-speaking culture. Idioms are a common stumbling block for learners of a language.


Apple and Orange - they do not compare
An apple and an orange

The idiom is not uniquely English.

In French-speaking Quebec, the idiom is comparer des pommes avec des oranges (to compare apples and oranges), In Europe, the French idiom is comparer des pommes et des poires (to compare apples and pears).

In Latin America, the Spanish idiom is comparar papas y boniatos (comparing potatoes and sweet potatoes) or comparar peras con manzanas (comparing pears and apples).

In British English, the phrase chalk and cheese means the same thing as apples and oranges.


In order to compare anything, there needs to be a theory to be proven and framework for testing the theory. Three basic questions come first:

  1. What are we comparing?
  2. Are the subjects good for comparing?
  3. Do the measures of comparison function in the same or similar ways?

Scientific research

The idiom has inspired scientific research projects. For example, the British Medical Journal published a study of red delicious apples compared with navel oranges. They were found to have many similarities.

There are differences in nutritional value.

Experiments at NASA Ames Research Center showed that apples and oranges decay at similar rates.

Related pages

  • Cummins RO, Hazinski MF. "Apples and oranges," Annals of Emergency Medicine (Ann Emerg Med). 1999;33:602–603.
  • Johnson W. "Comparing apples with oranges," Archives of Internal Medicine (Arch Intern Med). 1998;158:1591–1592.
  • Lubarsky DA. "Comparing apples to oranges," Anesthesia and Analgesia. (Anesth Analg). 1995 Aug;8:428–429.
  • Moayyedi P. "Meta-analysis: can we mix apples and oranges?" American Journal of Gastroentrology (Am J Gastroenterol). 2004 Dec;99(12):2297-301.
  •, Comparing Apples and Oranges

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Peras con manzanas para niños

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