Comparison of adjectives

Adjectives have three forms which we can use when we compare two or more nouns: positive form, comparative form and superlative form. The positive form is used when comparing two equal persons or things, and the comparative and superlative forms when comparing two or more unequal nouns.

 

There is a fourth form whose comparatives and superlatives do not follow the normal pattern:
Irregular comparatives and superlatives

 

 

Changes made to adjectives for comparison
Changes made to the adjectival words for comparison occur only at the end of the words as follow:
 
Add –er/–est  to adjectives with one syllable.
Example: new/newer/newest; light/lighter/lightest; old/older/oldest; wild/wilder/wildest.
 
Add –r/–st to adjectives that end with e.
Example: brave/braver/bravest; fine/finer/finest; pale/paler/palest; safe/safer/safest.
 
Add the same consonant and –er/–est to adjectives that end in one vowel + one consonant.
Example: big/bigger/biggest; fat/fatter/fattest; mad/madder/maddest; red/redder/reddest.
 
Add –er/–est to adjectives that end in two vowels + one consonant.
Example: clear/clearer/clearest; dear/dearer/dearest; green/greener/greenest.
 
Add –ier/–iest after dropping the y from the adjectives that end in y.
Example: dry/drier/driest; funny/funnier/funniest; tiny/tinier/tiniest; wealthy/wealthier/wealthiest.
 

 

 

Besides the above suffixes used to form the comparative and superlative, we can use the words more and most in front of an adjective to form the comparative and superlative respectively. Use the adverbial more with most adjectives that have two syllables, and more and most with all adjectives that have more than two syllables. The adjective itself does not change in form when used with more or most.

 

  

The positive form

When we use the positive form of adjective to make comparison, we use such expressions: as . . . asnot as . . . asetc. to compare two equal things or persons.

  

Examples:

  • My uncle is bald.
  • My uncle is as bald as a cue ball.
  • His head is big.
  • His head is as big as my head.
  • His wife-to-be is very charming.
  • His wife-to-be is not as charming as his ex-wife.

 

 

The comparative form

We use adjectives to describe a noun. We can also use adjectives to compare two nouns in terms of size, length, quality and others. The comparative form is used to compare two unequal persons or things. In using the comparative form of adjective to describe how one person or thing is when compared to another person or thing, we add the letters -er to the end of the adjective words (big – bigger; small – smaller) and the word than after the comparative adjective (longer than, taller than). 

 

Examples:

  • A hen's egg is bigger than a pigeon's egg..
  • Our fingers are longer than our toes.
  • This basketball player is taller than that footballer.
  • She says her pet hen walks faster than her pet duck.

 

 

Not all adjectives can end with -er. For some adjectives, we use the word more in front of them (careful – more careful; tired – more tired). When using the word more, we also use the word than to follow the ccareful; tir

 

Examples:

  • This morning, my grandmother appeared more cheerful than my grandfather.
  • Those little monkeys are more active than the old ones.
  • She is more skillful at drawing panda bears than her sister.

 

 

Some words cannot be used as comparative adjectives by adding "-er." 

Examples:

  • No: foolish – foolisher / useful  – usefuler

  • Yes: The right words to use are more foolish / more useful

     

 

 

Do not use “more” and “er” together for an adjective when making comparison 

Examples:

  • No: A yard is more longer than a foot.
    Yes: A yard is longer than a foot.
  • No: These oranges are much sweeter than those.
    Yes: These oranges are sweeter than those. 

 

 

More than one comparative adjective may be used to make a comparison.  

 

Examples:

  • The paperback edition of the book is cheaper and lighter than the hardback copy. 
  • Today’s weather is sunnier and warmer than yesterday’s.

 

 

The superlative form 
We use the superlative adjective when we compare three or more nouns. It is formed by adding est to the end of the adjective or adding the word most in front of it. The word the has to precede the superlative adjective.

 

Examples:

  • My great grandfather is the oldest one in the family.
  • She has the prettiest face in the whole school.
  • He talks the loudest in his circle of friends.
  • Bozo is the funniest clown in the circus.
  • How can you say the teacher is the most talkative person in class?  
  • It is a small chair but the most comfortable chair in the house.
  • He was the most injured among the victims.

 

 

One syllable

To form a comparative adjective, we look at the number of syllables a regular adjective has. Regardless of the number of syllables, the adjective itself does not change in form when used with more or most.

For adjectives of one syllable, we normally add -er to the end of the comparative adjective (high – higher, weak – weaker) and -est in their superlative forms (highest,weakest). 

If an adjective of one syllable ends with an e, just add an (pale – paler; safe  safer).   

If an adjective ends in a consonant, the consonant must be doubled (big – bigger; mad – madder). 

 

 

Two syllables

Example of an adjective that has two syllables: funny has two syllables: fun-ny

If an adjective has two syllables and ends in y, drop the y and add –ier (early – earlier; happy – happier; pretty – prettier).. 

If an adjective has two syllables and does not end in y, add the word more before the adjective (more handsome; more helpful; more purple).  

 

Examples:

  • She felt happier than she had been for a long time.
  • The lifts are more helpful to the older patients.

 

 

Three syllables

Example of a three-syllable adjective is beautiful. It has three syllables: beau-ti-ful.

For an adjective with three or more syllables, use the word more in front of the adjective to form the comparative form and the word most in front of the superlative form.   

 

Examples:

  • She wears heavy make-up to make herself more beautiful.
  • The Town Clock Tower is the most beautiful building in the city.
  • The weather was more terrible when it got dark.
  • It must have been the most terrible experience for the survivors.
  • Man is still more intelligent than the cleverest robot.
  • The eldest one is the most intelligent of the five sisters.

 

 

 

Irregular comparatives and superlativesadjectives
Some adjectives form their comparatives and superlatives irregularly. 
 
The following table shows a small list of adjectives that have irregular comparatives and superlatives, which do not make use of –er–estmore or most
 
Absolute Comparative Superlative
good better (than) (the) best
bad worse (than) (the) worst
little (amount) less (than) (the) least
little (size) smaller (than) (the) smallest
much more (than) (the) most
many more (than) (the) most
some more (than) (the) most
far (distance) farther (than) (the) farthest
far (advanced stage) further (than) (the) furthest

  

List 17 - The Comparison of Adjectives shows the comparison of adjectives for most common (and uncommon) words.