Comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs are absolutely fundamental to know if you want to speak and write descriptively in the English language. Knowing both of them will make you feel a lot more confident when talking to someone or when you’re writing down recommendations.
Take a look at this article to know more about these two forms in English grammar.
What are comparatives and superlatives?
Comparatives are adjectives or adverbs used to compare two or more nouns. They express a difference in degree, quality, number or amount.
In contrast, superlatives are a form of adjective or adverb that express that someone or something has more or less of a particular quality than anything or anyone else in the same category. They have the highest degree. Superlatives can also be used with more than two people or things if they are of the same quality.
We use both superlatives and comparatives when we want to emphasise how people or things are similar or different.
Let’s take a peek at comparatives first.
As mentioned above comparatives are all about comparisons. You use them to compare things or people. When you form a comparative sentence, it is common to use the word than between the nouns.
For example, Chicago is bigger than Kansas City.
The word than comes after the comparative. Look at how we form comparative adjectives below.
How do we form them?
One-syllable adjectives and adverbs
If you use one-syllable adjectives or adverbs, it is common to add er to the end of them in the comparative form.
small – smaller – Arnold is smaller than Seb.
tall – taller – The whole group is taller than me.
pink – pinker – Their bedroom is pinker than mine.
However, some spelling changes are needed depending on the word used.
1) adjective/adverb ending in -ry
When the adjective ends in –y, it is common to change the y to i and add –er.
wry – wrier – They have a wrier sense of humour than me.
dry – drier – Essex is drier than Yorkshire.
2) adjectives/adverbs ending in –y
The above point is not true for all one-syllable adjectives that end in -y though. Most of them keep the y in.
sly-slyer – Foxes are known to be slyer than dogs.
grey – greyer – He is greyer than her.
shy – shyer – I am shyer than my colleagues.
3) adjectives/adverbs ending in -e
We simply add –r to make these comparatives.
strange – stranger – I don’t think there’s a TV show on Netflix stranger than Stranger Things.
wise – wiser – She may not be academically smart, but she is wiser than you.
nice – nicer – This year I want to be nicer than last year.
4) When the adjective has both a vowel and a singular consonant at the end, we typically double the final consonant and add -er
sad – sadder – We are sadder than those lot over there!
thin – thinner – The walls in my new house are thinner than the walls in your old one.
big – bigger – Elephants are bigger than mice.
Of course, you know by now that English has many exceptions and monosyllabic comparatives are no exception!
With the adjectives below we use the word more instead of adding –er to the end of the adjective/adverb.
fun – more fun – Mattie is more fun than Winifred.
ill – more ill – I am more ill than I was a few days ago.
When talking, we can add –er or more for colours.
My hair is greyer than yours.
My hair is more grey than yours.
Both make sense in English
Adjectives with two or more and even three or more syllables
In most cases, two-syllable adjectives and adverbs are not followed with –er in the comparative form.
Instead, we use the words more or less with the base adjective. More indicates a higher degree whilst less a lower degree. This is true with all three-syllable adjectives and adverbs.
She is more beautiful than him. – not She is beautifuler than him.
Yerevan is more ancient than Rome – not Yerevan is ancienter than Rome.
Snakes can be more venomous than humans – not Snakes can be venomouser than humans.
They work more efficiently than us – not They work efficientlyer than us (this is an adverb).
However, you guessed it, there are some exceptions.
Two-syllable adjectives ending in –er, -le, or –ow
clever – cleverer – I am cleverer than my peers.
gentle – gentler– You are gentler with me than other people.
narrow – narrower– This street is narrower than I imagined.
This is also true with two-syllable adjectives ending in y.
friendly – friendlier– People are friendlier in the summer than in the winter.
pretty – prettier– She is prettier than her twin.
happy – happier– I am generally happier when not interrupted.
Look at the table below for a few more examples.
When do we use comparatives?
We already know that we use comparatives for comparing two or more than two things. But how else do English speakers use comparisons?
We use comparatives when there is a change in something, particularly a feeling.
I feel happier now that I know I did well on my test.
He is a lot busier than he was two months ago.
To emphasise how much something is changing
Rent is getting more and more expensive every day.
When I had an allergic reaction, my face got bigger and bigger.
For this use, we eliminate the word than and use the word and between the two comparatives. We also repeat the same adjective for extra emphasis.
With the word never to emphasise an emotion or appearance
I have never felt more stressed than I do now.
You have never looked prettier.
To highlight a consequence of an action
The hotter it got, the more tired I felt
The higher we went, the more terrified we became
Here the word than is eliminated and a comparative is added into each of the separate clauses.
As mentioned above, superlative forms are used to express that someone or something has the highest or lowest quality of a category. We can use them when we want to compare three or more things.
We use the word the before the superlative adjective and adverb.
The happiest person alive.
I like both Paris and Rome, but Dubrovnik is the best city in my opinion.
Superlative forms mirror comparative rules, but with different words. With one-syllable adjectives/adverbs, we add est to the end of the base adjective. For two-syllable adjectives, the most or the least + base adjective is the form.
Least is the superlative of the word little when it means a small amount (not size).
Exceptions to this rule are highlighted in the table below
|Est||Most and least|
|If a one-syllable adjective ends in –ry, change the superlative to –iest||Add most or least for the exceptions listed at the end of one syllable comparatives|
|If a one-syllable adjective ends in a vowel + consonant, double the consonant|
|Add est for two syllable adjective ending in -er, -le, or -ow|
|Add -est for two syllable adjective ending in -y|
Irregular Comparative and superlative adjectives
There are five irregular comparatives and superlatives that you need to know about.
Be careful when using little. This irregular adjective is for amount not for size.
If using little for size, use the –er/-est form. For example, I am the littlest person in my class.
Top tip: an easy way to remember this is to repeat “adjective comparative superlative good better best” and “adjective comparative superlative bad worse worst” and so on and so forth in your head.
Overview of comparative and superlative
Look at the table below for a complete overview of all the adverbs and adjectives used in this article.
|pink||more pink/pinker||most pink/pinkest|
|grey||more grey/greyer||most grey/greyest|
|right||more right||most right|
|wrong||more wrong||most wrong|
|fun||more fun||most fun|
|ill||more ill||most ill|
|ancient||more ancient||most ancient|
|beautiful||more beautiful||most beautiful|
|venomous||more venomous||most venomous|
|efficiently||more efficiently||most efficiently|
|expensive||more expensive||most expensive|
|stressed||more stressed||most stressed|
|tired||more tired||most tired|
|terrified||more terrified||most terrified|
Is that everything?
Not at all! Take a peek at the video here on my Youtube channel English with Lucy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGr7l3q7SMI
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What are comparatives and superlatives in English? ›
A Comparative Adjective is a word that describes a noun by comparing it to another noun. Comparative adjectives typically end in 'er' and are followed by the word 'than'. A Superlative Adjective is a word that describes a noun by comparing it to two or more nouns to the highest or lowest degree.What are the examples of comparative and superlative? ›
One syllable adjectives.
Less is the comparative form of little and refers to “a smaller amount of.” Least is the superlative form of little and refers to “the smallest amount of.”What is a superlative example? ›
The words biggest and fastest are examples of superlative adjectives. The word superlative has other uses outside of grammar. As an adjective, superlative is used to mean something is the best or highest of its kind, surpasses all others, or is excellent.What are the 3 types of comparative? ›
There are several methods of doing comparative analysis and Tilly (1984) distinguishes four types of comparative analysis namely: individualizing, universalizing, variation-finding and encompassing (p. 82).What is a superlative list? ›
August 2022) A list of superlatives is a list consisting of items regarded as superlative. Both items and their qualities can be arrived at objectively and subjectively.What are comparative examples? ›
To form comparative sentences, use the comparative with the word "than." Here are some examples: Fewer participants volunteered for the study than I had anticipated. Business school was less expensive than law school. His application was processed more quickly than he thought.What are comparative words? ›
A comparative adjective is an adjective used to compare two people or things. We use comparative adjectives to say that one person or thing demonstrates a high degree of a quality or is a better example of a quality than the other. Words like taller, smarter, and slower are examples of comparative adjectives.What are superlatives in English? ›
Meaning of superlative in English. the form of an adjective or adverb that expresses that the thing or person being described has more of the particular quality than anything or anyone else of the same type: "Richest" is the superlative of "rich".What are comparatives in English? ›
A comparative adjective is an adjective used to compare two people or things. We use comparative adjectives to say that one person or thing demonstrates a high degree of a quality or is a better example of a quality than the other. Words like taller, smarter, and slower are examples of comparative adjectives.
What are superlatives in English grammar? ›
A superlative adjective expresses the extreme or highest degree of a quality. We use a superlative adjective to describe the extreme quality of one thing in a group of things. We can use superlative adjectives when talking about three or more things (not two things). A is the biggest.How do you explain comparatives and superlatives to children? ›
We can use comparatives to compare things and superlatives to say which thing is top in a group. Cats are faster than mice. Science is more difficult than maths. The cheetah is the fastest animal.