Comparative and superlative adjectives

Learn about comparative and superlative adjectives and do the exercises to practise using them.

Level: beginner

Comparative 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 than when 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

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Comparative adjectives 2

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Superlative adjectives

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

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Superlative adjectives 2

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How to form comparative and superlative adjectives

We usually add –er and –est to one-syllable words to make comparatives and superlatives:

old older oldest
long longer longest

If an adjective ends in –e, we add –r or –st:

nice nicer nicest
large larger largest

If an adjective ends in a vowel and a consonant, we double the consonant:

big bigger biggest
fat fatter fattest

If an adjective ends in a consonant and –y, we change –y to –i and add –er or –est:

happy happier happiest
silly sillier silliest

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:

common
cruel
gentle
handsome
likely
narrow
pleasant
polite
simple
stupid

He is certainly handsomer than his brother.
His brother is handsome, but he is more handsome.
She is one of the politest people I have ever met.
She is the most polite person I have ever met.

The adjectives good, bad and far have irregular comparatives and superlatives:

good better best
bad worse worst
far farther/further  farthest/furthest
How to form comparative and superlative adjectives

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Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 06:40

In reply to by YSATO201602

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Hello YSATO201602,

I think it's perfectly fine to use the smallest (or lowest) number of..., just as it is fine to use the biggest (or the highest, the greatest) number of...

The other two options sound rather strange to me. They are, of course, illogical as the superlative refers not to women but to number, and so least and fewesr are rather jarring. However, your question is about which are used and it is not uncommon for 'illogical' forms to come into use.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Mr. Peter M Thank you very much for your help! I could understand the difference quite clearly and I’d choose “smallest” or “lowest” in my writing! Best Regards YSATO201602
Profile picture for user Pratapsingh

Submitted by Pratapsingh on Sun, 24/02/2019 - 14:47

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Rita is more beautiful than ........ of her sisters. A. any other B. any C. some D. all Dear sir, I know the correct answer is 'all', but I want to know the reason why all is correct, why 'some' or 'any' is not correct

Hello Pratapsingh

I would say that B, C and D are all grammatically correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OlgaT on Mon, 26/11/2018 - 15:07

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Hello, I can't find information about the degrees of comparison for the word "little" in use. It's an irregular adjective, is expected "less, (the) least". But in the expression, for example: "little girl" - how can we make comparative and superlative degrees? Basing on which grammar rules can it be explained to children?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 27/11/2018 - 05:32

In reply to by OlgaT

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Hello OlgaT,

The word 'little' has more than one meaning.

When we use it to describe quantity (a little time) then the progression is as you say: little > less > the least.

When we use it to describe size (a little girl) the progression is little > littler > the littlest.

However, littler/the littlest are considered non-standard by most speakers. The overwhelming majority avoid it and simply substitute smaller/the smallest

The alternatives (more litltle/the most little) are also used rarely and sound old-fashioned.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the answer. Yes, it was about the second meaning of the word. I understand it's just a very special word that is substituted with synonyms when making comparative and superlative.

Submitted by SajadKhan on Thu, 12/07/2018 - 10:36

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Hi There, I have been learning here for almost two weeks, and it is my first comment here. I was going through the section "Adjectives- intensifiers with comparative and superlative". I read that "much" intensifier can be used with a superlative adjective but there was no example for it. Can you give me some example? "He is much the best in the field." is it correct? And also why is there no comment sections below some articles?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 13/07/2018 - 09:00

In reply to by SajadKhan

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Hello SajadKhan,

Your example is correct. The phrase 'much the best' has a similar meaning to 'easily the best'. It's quite a formal phrasing.

Most pages have comments sections but some do not. Generally, these are pages which are abbreviated versions of other pages or pages which have relatively little information on them, if I remember correctly.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Tue, 26/06/2018 - 09:52

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Sir, I've read it that If a noun requires more degree of an adjective, So we use the strong adjective to modify that noun rather than using the positive form of an adjective with the intensifier 'Very'. Like this: Very dirty to Filthy, Very Good to Excellent or Fantastic, Very bad to Awful and so on. Is it true or a widely followed rule and does the same apply for adverbs ? Like this: Very well to Excellently or Fantastically ?
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 26/06/2018 - 14:41

In reply to by SonuKumar

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Hi SonuKumar,

Strong adjectives are quite common, but people also use, for example, 'very dirty'. I'm afraid I can't really be much more specific than that, as what people say depends heavily on context and their own way of speaking. If you are writing for a teacher or an exam, strong adjectives, judiciously used, are probably going to impress your reader more, though I'm not sure that's what you're thinking of.

The same 'rule' (though I'm not sure I'd called it a rule, really) doesn't really apply to adverbs. These adverbs exist, for the most part, but are quite unusual.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 18/06/2018 - 12:26

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Hello Sir This sentence is from your website grammar' topic 'superlative' and I would like to know that usually the adjective elder, eldest is use among brothers and sisters in a family but not old and older. But this sentence ' I have three sisters, Jan is the oldest and Anjela is the youngest. My question is 'Jan is the eldest and Anjela is the youngest is the normal way of writing. I am I right? Thank you. Regards

Hi Lal,

'eldest' and 'oldest' mean exactly the same thing in this sentence. Traditionally, 'eldest' was probably more common than 'oldest', but I'd say both forms are used equally these days.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, to indicate that a person was born first than another we can use "older", To indicate was born after we can use "younger"

Submitted by davidinh on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 16:28

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Hi, There is an example in Longman dictionary as below: Women are more at risk from the harmful effects of alcohol than men. I tried to find out what its structure is, but I couldn't, especially "at risk from the harmful effects of alcohol" : What is its role? And how to find its role? I guess it's an adjective phrase. Is it right? If yes, why it's an adjective phrase? I can't find the theory to explain it in detail. Please show me how to understand the structure of above sentence. Thank you! Best, David
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 08:23

In reply to by davidinh

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Hi David,

'At risk of' is an example of a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases can have adjectival or adverbial functions in the sentence. In this case it is adjectival.

If you want to analyse sentences for the functions of various parts then a good place to start is an online parsing tool. They are not perfect but are a good starting point. You can find many online, such as this one.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Darshan Sheth on Fri, 04/09/2015 - 16:53

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Hello sir, Thanks for all the solutions. I just came across a sentence: "Hardly did the men start training than they were sent into battle." I found it grammatically incorrect because some authorities state that we cannot use "than" after "hardly", instead we use "when". Also, we cannot use "did/does/do" and have to use "had/has/have" with "hardly". what is your opinion? are these rules correct? but why? can we ever use future tense in these type of sentences and how?
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 05/09/2015 - 10:13

In reply to by Darshan Sheth

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Hello Darshan Sheth,

It is often possible to choose between the past simple and the past perfect in sentences with two actions in the past. This is because both can be used to show actions which occur in a sequence. The difference is that the past perfect also suggests some connection between the two actions: one causes the other, or influences the other in some way. Thus both of these are possible:

Hardly did the men start training than they were sent into battle.

Hardly had the men started training than they were sent into battle.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, But why 'than' because we are not comparing two things else there would have been a comparative adjective? also as per your reply that past perfect also shows some connection between the two actions, when shall we use 'when' in such sentences - after simple past or past perfect?