comparatives superlatives



Review: Parts of Speech

Grammarians categorize words into the different parts of speech based on their grammatical features, function and position a sentence.

The traditional parts of speech are the noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction and interjection. Below are some examples to illustrate their meaning.

Noun Pro. Verb Adj. Adverb Prep.
cactus I be exotic still under
electric eel you continue civilized often next to
money we shine early easily below
alchemy they burn lazy carelessly outside
middle-class she remember false in pairs opposite
Pocahontas it steal fluent together inside
ancestor me emigrate tough nearly behind
Siberia us invent sweet only near
charisma them owe artificial naturally after
fantasy him hide fragile just between



In grammar, comparison expresses a greater or lesser degree of quality of a word.

This is done by inflection (changing the form of a word) or periphrastically (adding an auxiliary word) of certain adjectives and adverbs.

In this section, we look at comparisons involving adjectives. The three degrees or forms of comparison are the base adjective, comparative, and superlative.

The base adjective is the simple degree, such as, “That moose is big”; or “My astronomy professor is very smart.”


Comparatives and Superlatives

The comparative compares two nouns or two nominals. For example, “Sao Paulo is bigger than London.” Or “Traveling by airplane is more thrilling than traveling by coach (bus).”

The superlative highlights one among three or more items as having the highest or lowest quality referred to: “Russia is the largest country in the world.”

Forming Comparatives and Superlatives with –er and –est

We form comparatives and superlatives of most one-syllable adjectives by adding -er/-ier and -est/-iest respectively.

 Comparative = adjective-er/-ier
 Superlative = adjective-est/iest

Adjective Comparative Superlative
new newer the newest
cold colder the coldest
light lighter the lightest

For certain short adjectives, double the last letter.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
hot hotter the hottest
thin thinner the thinnest
red redder the reddest

For adjectives ending in y, turn that into an i.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
busy busier the busiest
easy easier the easiest
happy happier the happiest


Adding more and the most to Base Adjectives

When a base adjective has two or more syllables, we generally form the comparative and superlatives adjectives by adding the words “more” and “the most” respectively in front of it.

 Comparative = more + adjective
 Superlative = the most + adjective

Adjective Comparative Superlative
beautiful more beautiful the most beautiful
dangerous more dangerous the most dangerous
expensive more expensive the most expensive

fun more fun the most fun

Less and the Least

We can also reduce the intensity of a base adjective (though positive intensifiers are more commonly used). To do this we put less and the least in front of the base adjectives.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
rich less rich the least rich
lucky less lucky the least lucky
powerful less powerful the least powerful


Irregular Comparison Adjectives

Adjective Comparative Superlative
good, well better the best
bad worse the worst
far farther, further the farthest, the furthest

In terms of quantity

Adjective Comparative Superlative
little less the least
many, much more the most


Absolute Comparatives and Superlatives

Some adjectives such as square, impossible, eternal, empty, extreme, infinite, perfect, and unique are already absolute in meaning, and therefore cannot be compared. In everyday speech however, phrases like “more perfect”, “rounder”, and the “greenest” are commonly used.


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