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A comparative adjective is used to compare two things. A superlative adjective is used when you compare three or more things. For example, looking at apples you can compare their size, determining which is big, which is bigger, and which is biggest. The comparative ending (suffix) for short, common adjectives is generally “-er”; the superlative suffix is generally “-est.” For most longer adjectives, the comparative is made by adding the word “more” (for example, more comfortable) and the superlative is made by adding the word “most” (for example, most comfortable).
If a 1-syllable adjective ends in “e”, the endings are “-r” and “-st”, for example: wise, wiser, wisest.
If a 1-syllable adjective ends in “y”, the endings are “-er” and “-est”, but the y is sometimes changed to an “i”. For example: dry, drier, driest.
If a 1-syllable adjective ends in a consonant (with a single vowel preceding it), then the consonant is doubled and the endings “-er” and “-est” are used, for example: big, bigger, biggest.
If a 2-syllable adjective ends in “e”, the endings are “-r” and “-st”, for example: gentle, gentler, gentlest.
Some 2-syllable adjectives use the standard “-er” and “-est suffixes”, including adjectives that end in “er”, “le”, or “ow”. For example: narrow, narrower, narrowest.
- For most adjectives with two or more syllables, the comparative is formed by adding the word “more,” and you form the superlative by adding the word “most”, for example: colorful, more colorful, most colorful.
- Some comparative and superlative adjectives are irregular, including some very common ones such as good/better/best and bad/worse/worst.
Case Adjective Comparative Form Superlative Form 1-syllable adjectivesending in “e” close closer closest huge huger hugest large larger largest strange stranger strangest wise wiser wisest 1-syllable adjectivesending in a consonant with a single vowel preceding it big bigger biggest fat fatter fattest red redder reddest sad sadder saddest thin thinner thinnest 1-syllable adjectivesending in “y” dry drier driest spry sprier/spryer spriest/spryest wry wrier/wryer wriest/wryest 1-syllable adjectives,other cases fast faster fastest great greater greatest quick quicker quickest short shorter shortest tall taller tallest 2-syllable adjectivesending in “e” fickle fickler ficklest handsome handsomer handsomest polite politer politest 2-syllable adjectivesending in “y” bumpy bumpier bumpiest heavy heavier heaviest icy icier iciest shiny shinier shiniest tiny tinier tiniest 2-syllable adjectivesending in “le”, or “ow” able abler ablest gentle gentler gentlest hollow hollower hollowest narrow narrower narrowest shallow shallower shallowest simple simpler simplest 2 or more syllable adjectives,other cases beautiful more beautiful most beautiful colorful more colorful most colorful complete more complete most complete delicious more delicious most delicious generous more generous most generous important more important most important Irregular and confusing adjectives bad worse worst far (place) farther farthest far (place or time) further furthest good better best late (time) later latest late (order) latter last little (size) littler littlest little (amount) less least many/much/some more most old (people or things) older oldest old (people) elder eldest
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The comparative and the superlative | English Grammar | EF
- Comparative adjectives are used to compare differences between the two objects they modify (larger, smaller, faster, higher). They are used in sentences where two nouns are compared, in this pattern:
- Noun (subject) + verb + comparative adjective + than + noun (object).
- The second item of comparison can be omitted if it is clear from the context (final example below).
Superlative adjectives are used to describe an object which is at the upper or lower limit of a quality (the tallest, the smallest, the fastest, the highest). They are used in sentences where a subject is compared to a group of objects.
Noun (subject) + verb + the + superlative adjective + noun (object).
The group that is being compared with can be omitted if it is clear from the context (final example below).
Forming regular comparatives and superlatives
Forming comparatives and superlatives is easy. The form depends on the number of syllables in the original adjective.
One syllable adjectives
Add -er for the comparative and -est for the superlative. If the adjective has a consonant + single vowel + consonant spelling, the final consonant must be doubled before adding the ending.
Adjectives with two syllables can form the comparative either by adding -er or by preceeding the adjective with more. These adjectives form the superlative either by adding -est or by preceeding the adjective with most.
In many cases, both forms are used, although one usage will be more common than the other. If you are not sure whether a two-syllable adjective can take a comparative or superlative ending, play it safe and use more and most instead.
For adjectives ending in y, change the y to an i before adding the ending.
|tilted||more tilted||most tilted|
|tangled||more tangled||most tangled|
Three or more syllables
Adjectives with three or more syllables form the comparative by putting more in front of the adjective, and the superlative by putting most in front.
|important||more important||most important|
|expensive||more expensive||most expensive|
Irregular comparatives and superlatives
These very common adjectives have completely irregular comparative and superlative forms.
|far||further / farther||furthest / farthest|
Comparative and superlative of adjectives
Take a look at these sentences:
Old, big, expensive are adjectives. Older, bigger, more expensive are comparative forms.
What are superlative adjectives?
For examples of superlative forms, let’s look at these sentences:
The oldest, the biggest, the most popular are superlative forms.
|Short adjectives (one syllable)||old, long||older, longer||the oldest, the longest|
|Adjectives ending in one vowel + one consonant||big, hot||bigger, hotter||the biggest, the hottest|
|Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y||ugly, noisy, messy||uglier, noisier, messier||the ugliest, the noisiest, the messiest|
|Longer adjectives (with two or more syllables)||careful, expensive, beautiful||more careful, more expensive, more beautiful||the most careful, the most expensive, the most beautiful|
|With some two-syllable adjectives both -er and -est endings and more / most are possible.||polite, common||more polite / politer, more common / commoner||the most polite / the politest, the most common / the commonest|
|With some two-syllable adjectives only an -er or -est ending is possible.||narrow, simple, clever||narrower, simpler, cleverer||the narrowest, the simplest, the cleverest|
|far||further / farther||the furthest / the farthest|
Comparative adjectives and opposites
Here’s a list of some comparative adjectives and their opposites:
|old ➝ older||young ➝ younger|
|cheap ➝ cheaper||expensive ➝ more expensive|
|slow ➝ slower||fast ➝ faster|
|hot ➝ hotter||cold ➝ colder|
|warm ➝ warmer||cool ➝ cooler|
|rich ➝ richer||poor ➝ poorer|
|large ➝ larger||small ➝ smaller|
|high ➝ higher||low ➝ lower|
|interesting ➝ more interesting||boring ➝ more boring|
|safe ➝ safer||dangerous ➝ more dangerous|
|comfortable ➝ more comfortable||uncomfortable ➝ more uncomfortable|
|strong ➝ stronger||weak ➝ weaker|
|wide ➝ wider||narrow ➝ narrower|
|clever ➝ cleverer||stupid ➝ more stupid|
|deep ➝ deeper||shallow ➝ shallower|
|good ➝ better||bad ➝ worse|
|near ➝ nearer||far ➝ further(also farther)|
|tidy ➝ tidier||untidy ➝ more untidy(also untidier)|
|happy ➝ happier||unhappy ➝ more unhappy(also unhappier)|
Comparatives and superlatives exercise (1) >> (elementary level)
Comparatives and superlatives exercise >> (intermediate)
Superlative and Comparative Adjectives
Download this explanation in PDF here. To make the comparative form of adjectives (like 'bigger' or 'more expensive') and the superlative form (like 'biggest' or 'most expensive'), first we need to know how many syllables are in the adjective.
Adjectives with one syllable
Usually if an adjective has only one syllable, we add 'er' to make the comparative form. We add 'est' to make the superlative form.
- clean → cleaner / cleanest
- cold → colder / coldest
- small → smaller / smallest
- young → younger / youngest
- tall → taller / tallest
There are some spelling changes. If there is one vowel followed by one consonant at the end of the adjective, we often double the consonant.
- wet → wetter / wettest
- big → bigger / biggest
- hot → hotter / hottest
- thin → thinner / thinnest
If the adjective ends in 'y', this often changes to 'i'. If the adjective ends in 'e', we don't add another 'e', just 'r'.
- nice → nicer / nicest
- large → larger / largest
Even when the adjective has only one syllable, it's still not wrong to use 'more' or 'most'. It's possible to say 'more wet' or 'most tall'. This isn't incorrect.
There are a few adjectives that we have to use 'more' or 'most' with, even though they only have one syllable. We CAN'T add 'er' or 'est'.
- fun → more fun / most fun (NOT funner / funnest)
- real → more real / most real (NOT realer / realest)
- right → more right / most right (NOT righter / rightest)
- wrong → more wrong / most wrong (NOT wronger / wrongest)
Adjectives with two syllables
For adjectives with two syllables we generally use 'more' or 'most'.
- careful → more careful / most careful
- bored → more bored / most bored
But some two syllable adjectives can take 'er' or 'est'. It's also fine to use 'more' (for the comparative) or 'most' (for the superlative).
- clever → cleverer / cleverest
- simple → simpler / simplest
- narrow → narrower / narrowest
- quiet → quieter / quietest
Adjectives with two syllables that end in 'y' usually can add 'er' or 'est' (y generally changes to i). It's also fine to use 'more' or 'most'.
- dirty → dirtier / dirtiest
- pretty → prettier / prettiest
- happy → happier / happiest
- ugly → uglier / ugliest
Adjectives with more than two syllables
Adjectives with more than two syllables can only make their comparative by using 'more' and their superlative by using 'most'.
- beautiful → more beautiful / most beautiful
- intelligent → more intelligent / most intelligent
- interesting → more interesting / most interesting
- expensive → more expensive / most expensive
There are also some irregular adjectives. We just need to learn these forms.
- good → better → best
- bad → worse → worst
- far → further → furthest
- little → less → least
- much → more → most
Try an exercise about making the comparative here. Read about how to use comparative adjectives here. Read about how to use superlative adjectives here.
Need more practice? Get more Perfect English Grammar with our courses.
Comparatives and Superlatives
- We use Comparatives and Superlatives to compare two or more nouns.
- The formation of the comparative and superlative depends on the number of syllables in the adjective:
- To form the comparative, we add -er to the end of the adjective.
- To form the superlative, we add -est to the end of the adjective.
|wide *||wider||the widest|
|hot **||hotter||the hottest|
* When an adjective ends in the letter E, we just add the -R (for comparatives) or -ST (for superlatives). We do not write two Es together. Wider (correct) not wideer (incorrect).
** When an adjective ends in a consonant + short vowel + consonant (C + V + C), we normally double the last letter. big – bigger – biggest, wet – wetter – wettest
- London is bigger than Santiago.
- Mike is taller than John but James is the tallest.
- Yesterday was the hottest day of the year.
- It is the oldest building in the village.
- I want a faster car.
Notice how comparatives are often followed by than when comparing two things or people.
Two-syllable Adjectives ending in -Y
To form the comparative, we remove the -y and add –ier to the end of the adjective.
To form the superlative, we remove the -y and add –iest to the end of the adjective.
- It was the happiest day of my life.
- My joke was funnier than your one.
- This section is easier than the rest.
Adjectives with Two or more Syllables
For Adjectives with 2 syllables (that don't end in -y) and higher (3, 4 syllables etc), we use more for comparatives and the most for superlatives.
|handsome||more handsome||the most handsome|
|nervous||more nervous||the most nervous|
|enthusiastic||more enthusiastic||the most enthusiastic|
- My girlfriend is more beautiful than yours.
- Alex is more intelligent than you but I am the most intelligent.
- It was the most wonderful day I have ever had.
Some exceptions with two-syllable adjectives ending in -er and -est:
narrow – narrower, simple – simpler, quiet – quieter
|far ***||further / farther||the furthest / farthest|
|old ****||older/elder||the oldest / eldest|
- I am a better tennis player than you but Marcelo is the best.
- Steve is a worse liar than me but Adrian is the worst.
- *** Farther – Further
- Further / farther, furthest / farthest are all used for distance.
- Only Further / furthest are used to mean 'additional' or 'more advanced'.
- Puerto Montt is further / farther than Valdivia is from here (in Santiago).
- If you require further information, please contact reception.
- Remember that the opposites of 'more' and 'most' are 'less' and 'least', respectively.
- **** Older – Eldest
- We use elder / eldest when we are talking about family relationships and normally only before a noun (not by itself unless it is a pronoun).
- He is my elder brother. (We cannot say: My brother is elder than me. – incorrect)
- The eldest sister would pass on her dresses to the younger one.
Comparative and Superlative of ILL
When comparing how ill people are, you will normally hear worse or the worst and not “iller or illest”. Some people may prefer to replace ill with sick (sicker, sickest) when comparing.
Comparatives Versus Superlatives
When you’re comparing items, you need to notice if you’re comparing two things or more than two things.
When you compare two items, you’re using what’s called a comparative, so you use “more” before the adjective or the suffix “-er” on the end of it. You can remember that comparatives are for two thing because “comparative” has the sound “pair” in it and a pair is always two things. It's not spelled like “pair” but it sounds like pair.
When you compare three or more items, you’re using a superlative, so you use “most” or the suffix “-est.” You can remember that superlatives are for more than two things because “superlative” has the word “super” in it and when you want a whole bunch of something, you supersize it. So to think about it loosely, use a comparative when you have a pair of things and a superlative when you have a supersized group (at least more than two).
Now, if you listened to the other show about comparisons, you know when you’re supposed to use which one.* If not, you can always check it out; it's episode 124.
Here's how you would use comparatives and superlatives. If you want to brag that you now have more knowledge about grammar than you used to, you’re comparing now and then, which is two items.
You might therefore state, “I’ve been listening to Grammar Girl for a while, so my grammar is better than it used to be.” Here, the comparative is “better.” If, on the other hand, you’re comparing yourself with your six cousins, you’re comparing seven people.
You might say, “I am the best speller in the family.” Here, the superlative is “best.”
Errors Versus Broken Rules
A few errors crop up with comparisons. One common mistake is using a superlative form when you’re comparing only two items. For example, it would be incorrect to say, “It was the tallest of the two buildings.
” You are comparing just two buildings, so you should use a comparative, “taller,” not a superlative, “tallest.
” A quick and dirty tip to help you remember which suffix goes with which number of items is that “-er” has two letters, and it is for comparing two things; “-est” has three letters, and it is for comparing three or more things.
Sometimes, though, an error of this kind sounds more natural than the grammatically correct version. Take this sentence: “Which house of Congress has the better attendance record?” That technically correct sentence sounds odd to me.
I’m not sure why, but I would prefer to say, “best attendance record” even though there are only two houses of Congress (1). Perhaps it’s because “best” is becoming more common than “better.” You’ll hear, and probably say, “Put your best foot forward.
” Of course we have only two feet, so we should really say “better foot,” but that sounds very strange. Maybe we say “best” because we are speaking figuratively, as in “Do the best you can”; we’re not really talking about actual feet.
But we also say, “May the best team win,” usually when only two teams are playing.
So “better” versus “best” is a bit of a conundrum. Sometimes the ungrammatical way sounds best. And again, I just caught myself using “best” instead of “better” in that sentence. I compared two items, the grammatical way and the ungrammatical way, but I used a superlative.
Well, I guess “best” is sometimes the best option, even if it’s not technically correct. In speech, it’s probably fine to let a few “bests” slip out, but in formal writing you might want to use a comparative when it’s called for. If it sounds unnatural, then rewrite the sentence.
Comparative and superlative adjectives
Home » English Grammar » Adjectives
We use comparative adjectives to show change or make comparisons:
This car is certainly better,but it's much more expensive.
I'm feeling happier now.
We need a bigger garden.
We use thanwhen we want to compare one thing with another:
She is two years older than me.
New York is much bigger than Boston.
He is a better player than Ronaldo.
France is a bigger country than Britain.
When we want to describe how something or someone changes we can use two comparatives with and:
The balloon got bigger and bigger.
Everything is getting more and more expensive.
Grandfather is looking older and older.
We often use the with comparative adjectives to show that one thing depends on another:
The faster you drive, the more dangerous it is.
(= When you drive faster, it is more dangerous.)
The higher they climbed, the colder it got.
(= When they climbed higher, it got colder.)
Comparative adjectives 1
Comparative adjectives 2
We use the with superlative adjectives:
It was the happiest day of my life.
Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
That’s the best film I have seen this year.
I have three sisters: Jan is the oldest and Angela is the youngest.
Superlative adjectives 1
Superlative adjectives 2
How to form comparative and superlative adjectives
We usually add –er and –est to one-syllable words to make comparatives and superlatives:
If an adjective ends in –e, we add –r or –st:
If an adjective ends in a vowel and a consonant, we double the consonant:
If an adjective ends in a consonant and –y, we change –y to –i and add –er or –est:
We use more and most to make comparatives and superlatives for most two syllable adjectives and for all adjectives with three or more syllables:
|careful||more careful||most careful|
|interesting||more interesting||most interesting|
However, with these common two-syllable adjectives, you can either add –er/–r and –est/–st or use more and most:
Forming Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
Form the comparative and superlative forms of a one-syllable adjective by adding –er for the comparative form and –est for the superlative.
- Mary is taller than Max.
- Mary is the tallest of all the students.
- Max is older than John.
- Of the three students, Max is the oldest.
- My hair is longer than your hair.
- Max's story is the longest story I've ever heard.
If the one-syllable adjective ends with an e, just add –r for the comparative form and –st for the superlative form.
- Mary's car is larger than Max's car.
- Mary's house is the largest of all the houses on the block.
- Max is wiser than his brother.
- Max is the wisest person I know.
If the one-syllable adjective ends with a single consonant with a vowel before it, double the consonant and add –er for the comparative form; and double the consonant and add –est for the superlative form.
- My dog is bigger than your dog.
- My dog is the biggest of all the dogs in the neighborhood.
- Max is thinner than John.
- Of all the students in the class, Max is the thinnest.
- My mother is fatter than your mother.
- Mary is the fattest person I've ever seen.
With most two-syllable adjectives, you form the comparative with more and the superlative with most.
|peaceful||more peaceful||most peaceful|
|pleasant||more pleasant||most pleasant|
|careful||more careful||most careful|
|thoughtful||more thoughtful||most thoughtful|
- This morning is more peaceful than yesterday morning.
- Max's house in the mountains is the most peaceful in the world.
- Max is more careful than Mike.
- Of all the taxi drivers, Jack is the most careful.
- Jill is more thoughtful than your sister.
- Mary is the most thoughtful person I've ever met.
If the two-syllable adjectives ends with –y, change the y to i and add –er for the comparative form. For the superlative form change the y to i and add –est.
- John is happier today than he was yesterday.
- John is the happiest boy in the world.
- Max is angrier than Mary.
- Of all of John's victims, Max is the angriest.
- Mary is busier than Max.
- Mary is the busiest person I've ever met.
Two-syllable adjectives ending in –er, -le, or –ow take –er and –est to form the comparative and superlative forms.
- The roads in this town are narrower than the roads in the city.
- This road is the narrowest of all the roads in California.
- Big dogs are gentler than small dogs.
- Of all the dogs in the world, English Mastiffs are the gentlest.
Adjectives with three or more syllables.
For adjectives with three syllables or more, you form the comparative with more and the superlative with most.
|generous||more generous||most generous|
|important||more important||most important|
|intelligent||more intelligent||most intelligent|
- John is more generous than Jack.
- John is the most generous of all the people I know.
- Health is more important than money.
- Of all the people I know, Max is the most important.
- Women are more intelligent than men.
- Mary is the most intelligent person I've ever met.
- Italian food is better than American food.
- My dog is the best dog in the world.
- My mother's cooking is worse than your mother's cooking.
- Of all the students in the class, Max is the worst.
Two-syllable adjectives that follow two rules. These adjectives can be used with -er and -est and with more and most.
|clever||more clever||most clever|
|gentle||more gentle||most gentle|
|friendly||more friendly||most friendly|
|quiet||more quiet||most quiet|
|simple||more simple||most simple|
- Big dogs are gentler than small dogs.
- Of all the dogs in the world, English Mastiffs are the gentlest.
- Big dogs are more gentle than small dogs.
- Of all the dogs in the world, English Mastiffs are the most gentle.
Directions: Choose the best answer. (10 problems)