Comparison of Adjectives: Comparative and Superlative

Last Updated on November 28, 2023

Comparison of adjectives is a fundamental aspect of language that enables us to express degrees of comparison between two or more things. Whether we want to compare the size of two animals or the intelligence of two people, comparison of adjectives helps us to convey the differences and similarities between them.

In this article, we will explore the different types of comparison of adjectives. We will also examine the rules and exceptions that govern the use of comparison of adjectives in English. So, let’s delve into the world of comparison of adjectives and discover how they can enrich our language.

Understanding Comparison of Adjectives

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Adjectives are words used to describe or modify nouns, and they play a significant role in making sentences more informative and accurate. The comparison of adjectives involves three degrees, which are essential in making distinctions between qualities, quantities, or other characteristics. The three degrees are the positive, comparative, and superlative degree. 

Positive Degree

The positive degree simply describes a noun without making any comparison. It is the basic form of an adjective, and it typically does not require any additional change or modification. Examples of positive degree adjectives include: big, fast, clever, colorful, and loud. For instance:

  • The dog is big.
  • She has a colorful dress.

Comparative Degree

The comparative degree is used to compare two nouns or pronouns. This often involves adding the suffix “-er” to short adjectives or using the word “more” before long adjectives. Examples of comparative degree adjectives include: bigger, faster, cleverer, more colorful, and louder. For instance:

  • This dog is bigger than that one.
  • Her dress is more colorful than mine.

When comparing two things with a similar characteristic, the construction “as…as” can be used. For example:

  • He is as fast as his brother.
  • She is as tall as the lamp. 

Superlative Degree

To compare the qualities of three or more things, the superlative degree is used. This involves adding the suffix “-est” to short adjectives or using the word “most” before long adjectives. Examples of superlative degree adjectives include: biggest, fastest, cleverest, most colorful, and loudest. For instance:

  • She is the fastest runner in the race.
  • This is the most colorful painting in the gallery.

Formation of Comparative and Superlative Degrees

One-Syllable Adjectives

For most one-syllable adjectives, forming the comparative and superlative degrees is quite straightforward. Simply add -er to the adjective for the comparative form, and -est for the superlative form.

Examples:

  • Tall: taller, tallest
  • Small: smaller, smallest

There are some exceptions, like final consonant doubling (to double the number of final consonants) and changing the final -y to -i before adding -er or -est:

  • Big: bigger, biggest
  • Sad: sadder, saddest
  • Dry: drier, driest

Two-Syllable Adjectives

For two-syllable adjectives, the rules depend on the adjective’s ending. If the adjective ends in -y, -le, or -er, add -er or -est to form the comparative and superlative degrees:

  • Easy: easier, easiest
  • Noble: nobler, noblest
  • Clever: cleverer, cleverest

For other two-syllable adjectives, use more or most before the adjective:

  • Active: more active, most active
  • Peaceful: more peaceful, most peaceful

Adjectives with Three or More Syllables

For adjectives with three or more syllables, use more for the comparative form and most for the superlative form. Do not add -er or -est to these adjectives.

Examples:

  • Beautiful: more beautiful, most beautiful
  • Respectful: more respectful, most respectful
  • Fascinating: more fascinating, most fascinating

Comparison with As…As

In English grammar, the “as…as” structure is used to compare equal qualities or characteristics of two people, things, or places. This structure is formed by placing an adjective or adverb between the two “as” words. Here are a few examples to illustrate this comparison.

  • John is as tall as Mike.
  • The cake is as delicious as the pie.
  • She can run as fast as her brother.

When making negative comparisons, the structure “not as…as” can also be used. This is to indicate that the qualities or characteristics being compared are not equal.

  • Lucy is not as patient as her sister.
  • The new car is not as expensive as the old one.

The “as…as” structure can also be used with adverbs. Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate this.

  • Tom works as hard as Mary.
  • The baby sleeps as peacefully as a kitten.

It’s important to note that when using “as…as” for comparisons, the adjective or adverb being used should not be in its comparative or superlative form. The structure itself implies that the comparison is equal, so there is no need to modify the adjective or adverb.

Irregular Comparisons

Irregular comparisons occur when adjectives do not follow the standard pattern of adding -er or -est for comparative and superlative forms. Instead, they have unique and distinct forms that must be memorized. These irregular adjectives are essential to master for proper English grammar.

Some common irregular adjectives include:

  • Good: better, best
  • Bad: worse, worst
  • Far: further/farther, furthest/farthest
  • Little: less, least
  • Old: older, elder, oldest, eldest

One interesting aspect of irregular comparisons is that some adjectives have two forms with slight differences in meaning. For example, the adjective far has two comparative forms: further and farther. Generally, further is used when referring to abstract or figurative distances, while farther is more appropriate for physical distances.

To ensure correct usage, it is advisable to learn and practice these irregular comparative and superlative forms. To reinforce one’s understanding and retention of these irregular forms, the following are some examples of sentences that utilize them:

  • John is a good student, but Sarah is better than him, and Jane is the best student in their class.
  • The weather today is bad, yesterday’s weather was even worse, but the storm last week had the worst weather we’ve experienced all year.
  • The library is far from my house; the grocery store is even farther, but the airport is the farthest of all.

Comparison with Quantifiers

What are Quantifiers?

Quantifiers help to express the degree of difference between the two elements, whether it is a small or large difference. They can be applied to demonstrate both “more” and “less” differences in a comparison.

For instance, some commonly used quantifiers include words like a bit, slightly, much, far, way, a lot, and a little. These quantifiers can modify the adjectives in a comparative sentence, providing more depth and clarity about the extent of the difference between the two compared items.

Comparison Using Quantifiers

Consider the following examples:

  • This car is a bit more expensive than that motorcycle.
  • The red dress is slightly less appealing than the blue one.
  • Tom’s cake was much tastier than Jane’s.
  • The novel’s ending was far more satisfying than the movie’s version.

With the inclusion of quantifiers, the reader or listener gains a better understanding of the level of distinction in the comparison. It is important to use the appropriate quantifier based on context, as they can change the meaning of the comparison.

Quantifiers can also be used with comparative adverbs, which modify verbs. Like comparative adjectives, these adverbs help to compare the actions or states of two subjects. For example:

  • The puppy runs much faster than the older dog.
  • Sarah speaks a little more quietly than her sister.

Forming Equative, Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives?

For one-syllable adjectives, add -er to form the comparative and -est to form the superlative. For two-syllable adjectives ending in -y, change the -y to -ier for the comparative and -iest for the superlative. For other adjectives with two or more syllables, place “more” before the adjective to form the comparative and “most” before the adjective to form the superlative. Some adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms.

How do you identify the comparative form of an adjective?

The comparative form of an adjective generally has the suffix -er or is preceded by “more.” For example, “faster” or “more expensive” are comparative forms of the adjectives “fast” and “expensive,” respectively.

Can you provide examples of comparative and superlative adjectives?

Here are some examples:

  • Old: older (comparative) and oldest (superlative)
  • Happy: happier (comparative) and happiest (superlative)
  • Beautiful: more beautiful (comparative) and most beautiful (superlative)
  • Bad: worse (comparative), and worst (superlative)

What are the types of comparison in adjectives?

There are three degrees of comparison in adjectives: positive, comparative, and superlative. The positive degree refers to the base form of the adjective, the comparative degree is used to compare two things, and the superlative degree is used to indicate which item is the best among three or more items.

What is the grammar for comparing adjectives?

To compare adjectives, use the comparative form of the adjective followed by “than” and the object of comparison. For example, “She is taller than him” or “His car is more expensive than mine.”

What is the comparative and superlative form of the adjective ‘good’?

The comparative form of ‘good’ is ‘better’, and the superlative form is ‘best’. These forms are irregular and don’t follow the standard rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives.

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