Do you want to learn more about comparative and superlative adjectives? If so, you've come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know about what they are, how to form them, and how to use them in your writing.
This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.
As you may already know, adjectives are words that provide a description of a noun. Comparative adjectives offer a specific type of description: they compare. So if you have two nouns and you want to compare them in any way, you'll use comparative adjectives.
Take a look at the following sentence:
Tommy is older than me.
The comparative adjective is 'older.' It's derived from the adjective 'old' and, in this example, is used to compare two people's ages.
Pretty much any adjective can be transformed into a comparative adjective, except if it's a word that doesn't lend itself to comparison. 'Pink,' for example, can't be used as a comparative because something can't be more pink or less pink than another thing.
So how do you form a comparative adjective? Let's find out.
The standard way to form a comparative when the adjective has just one or two syllables is to take the adjective and add the suffix -er.
When the adjective has three or more syllables, you would typically keep it as is and add the word 'more' in front of it.
beautiful → more beautiful
intelligent → more intelligent
expensive → more expensive
interesting → more interesting
hardworking → more hardworking
But, expectedly, there are exceptions to these rules. Here they are.
First of all, if the adjective itself already ends with -e, then instead of adding -er at the end, you just add the -r. This one makes sense because it allows us to avoid a double 'e' or even a triple 'e,' if the adjective ends with -ee.
nice → nicer
large → larger
late → later
If the adjective ends with consonant-vowel-consonant, double the consonant before you add -er.
fat → fatter
thin → thinner
big → bigger
If the adjective ends in -y, change the 'y' to 'i' before you add -er.
silly → sillier
happy → happier
dry → drier
And then you've got irregular adjectives that don't follow any particular rules and are completely random in their formation of comparatives. You just have to memorize these.
Here are a few examples:
Some adjectives allow you to use both the '-er' and 'more' forms.
clever → cleverer/more clever
cruel → crueler/more cruel
likely → likelier/more likely
Oh, and by the way, when comparing two things, it doesn't have to be about one thing being of superior quality to the other. You can also talk about something being less than the other. And you'll be pleased to hear that, in this case, it's a whole lot easier: just use 'less' in front of the adjective and 'than' after it. You don't need to change the adjective's form in any way.
Here are some examples:
He is less cruel than I am.
This dress is less expensive than the one you're looking at.
I don't love this movie but at least it's less boring than the last one.
Typically, a sentence with a comparative would look a little something like this:
[Noun] + [Verb] + [Comparative adjective] + [Than] + [Object]
My dog is smarter than yours.
So you put the thing being compared first, then the verb, followed by its quality, the word 'than,' and the thing it's being compared to.
But it's important to know this format will sometimes vary, and what's more, comparative adjectives can also sometimes stand alone, without the 'than' and without the thing it's being compared to. Take the following sentence, for example:
I traded my phone in for a newer model.
This sentence doesn't use the word 'than' because it isn't comparing the phone to anything but itself. That's why the sentence also doesn't feature an object.
Now to finish up this section about comparative adjectives, I'm going to show you some examples of sentences that contain comparative adjectives so that hopefully you can get a better idea of what they look like in real life and how you can use them, too.
My mom's food is so much more delicious than any restaurant's.
And then, things started getting even weirder.
His new show is funnier than his previous ones.
She's getting more and more confident every year.
I'm determined to run faster in the next race.
The good news is once you've got comparative adjectives covered, there isn't a lot of new stuff to learn when it comes to superlatives. The rules for forming them are pretty similar, as are the exceptions and the irregular adjectives.
The concept is very similar: superlatives are also used to compare things. The difference is that instead of simply saying that one thing is more X, Y, or Z than another, which is what comparatives do, superlatives tell you that something is the most X, Y, or Z of all.
Here's an example from a famous fairytale:
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?
The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves wants to know who the fairest—meaning beautiful, in this context—person in the kingdom is. The mirror replies that Snow White is the fairest, filling the Queen with rage because that means, of course, that Snow White is fairer than her. In fact, she is fairer than everyone in the kingdom because she is the fairest.
This also means you can use superlatives to compare more than two things. The number of things you can compare with superlatives is limitless.
Take the following sentence, for example:
That's the brightest star in the sky.
This would be a pretty bold statement and potentially very difficult to prove. Still, it is a great example to show that you can use superlatives to express that one thing is better than all the others, plus infinity.
As with comparatives, you can turn almost any adjective into a superlative as long as it's something that you can actually compare. To use our earlier example, something can't be pinker than another thing, and it certainly can't be the pinkest. Pink is pink. To use another example, something can't be deader than something else, nor can it be the deadest.
The standard way to form a superlative when the adjective has just one or two syllables is to take the adjective and add the suffix -est.
smart → smartest
simple → simplest
clean → cleanest
clever → cleverest
quiet → quietest
When the adjective has three or more syllables, you would typically keep it as is and add the word 'most' in front of it.
beautiful → most beautiful
intelligent → most intelligent
expensive → most expensive
interesting → most interesting
hardworking → most hardworking
The exceptions to this rule are the same as the comparative adjective ones. The only difference will be that instead of the -er ending, it will be the -est ending. I'll list those exceptions here again.
If the adjective itself already ends with -e, instead of adding -est at the end, you just add -st.
nice → nicest
large → largest
late → latest
If the adjective ends with consonant-vowel-consonant, double the consonant before you add -est.
fat → fattest
thin → thinnest
big → biggest
If the adjective ends in -y, change the 'y' to 'i' before you add -er.
silly → silliest
happy → happiest
dry → driest
And then you've got those irregular adjectives again. These are also the same as the comparatives:
good → best
bad → worst
many → most
far → furthest
The adjectives that allow you to use both the '-est' form and the 'most' form are the same, too.
clever → cleverest/most clever
cruel → cruelest/most cruel
likely → likeliest/most likely
Just like with comparatives, you can use superlatives to talk about something having the least amount of a specific quality instead of the most.
Here are some examples:
We'd like to opt for the least invasive procedure.
If was the least expensive car I could find.
You might have noticed we don't use 'than' with superlatives. That's because superlative sentences don't literally compare one thing to another. Yes, superlatives are used to show a comparison, but not a direct comparison between two things and more a superior quality in that thing that makes it better than all the others. So the thing or things it's being compared to are implied; you don't need to mention them.
Typically, a sentence with a superlative would look a little something like this:
[Noun] + [Verb] + the + [Superlative Adjective] + [Object]
My dog is the smartest.
So you put the subject first, then the verb, followed by 'the' and its defining quality.
Of course, this format will vary slightly depending on what you want to say, and some sentences may be longer than others.
My dog is the smartest animal I've ever known.
My dog is the fastest of the three.
Also, you can use a possessive adjective or noun instead of' the.'
My dog is my best friend.
Lisa's dog is the cutest thing you've ever seen.
Now let's look at examples of sentences containing superlative adjectives.
That's the funniest thing I've ever heard.
Which puppy would you say is the cutest of the bunch?
The youngest person in the room can play first.
I'll pick whichever country is hottest to go on a vacation to.
What's the best laptop for gaming?
Now that you're familiar with comparative and superlative adjectives, we can cover comparative and superlative adverbs because the concept is very similar. The difference lies in the contrast between adjectives and adverbs.
So let's review:
So adjectives describe 'what' while adverbs describe 'how.'
The same goes for comparative and superlative adjectives vs. comparative and superlative adverbs. So, for example, look at the two following sentences for contrast:
Sophie is more elegant that June.
Sophie dresses more elegantly than June.
The first sentence is an example of a comparative adjective because it describes how Sophie is. It describes the noun 'Sophie.'
The second sentence is an example of a comparative adverb because it describes how Sophie dresses. It describes the verb 'dresses.'
Now let's take a look at two examples of superlatives:
John is the hardest-working student.
John is the student who works the hardest.
The first sentence is an example of a superlative adjective because it describes the noun 'John.'
The second sentence is an example of a superlative adverb because it describes the verb 'works.'
Though they differ in meaning, these adverbs are constructed in the same way as comparative and superlative adjectives.
That concludes this article on comparative and superlative adjectives. I hope you found it helpful.
Let's summarize what we've learned:
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