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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Submitted by Nevı on Sun, 23/05/2021 - 14:48

In reply to by Jonathan R

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You've been really helpful, teacher. However, I always look at the end of the page on the link I copied when I want to understand where the words come from. For example; https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/melting Is it useful to understand the word's family, teacher ?

Hi Nevı,

Yes, in my opinion it seems useful! But you are the best person to decide whether it is useful for you, based on whether it gives you the information you are looking for, how clear it is, how easy it is to use, etc. 

For word families, here is another resource you can try out: British Council's Word Family Framework. If you search for a word (e.g. melting), it will show you other words in the same word family.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Fri, 07/05/2021 - 13:54

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Hi there brilliant team! I am confused about one thing about participle adjective. I saw that sentence ' I am well prepared for the fight. Is' prepared' past participle as an adjective? If it is, it should have passive meaning. So who prepared me? Because I received the action. I would be grateful if you could explain it to me. Best wishes.

Hi Nevi,

Many adjectives have the same form as the past participle but function in the same way as any other adjective. For example, 'well-travelled' has no passive meaning; it is used in the same way as any other adjective:

a happy woman

a nice woman

a well-travelled woman

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kunthea on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 10:46

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I was wondering if you could help me identify these two sentences. 1. She is one of the politest people I have ever met. 2. She is one of the politest people I haven't met before. I still can't get them right. Thank you.

Hi Kunthea,

Actually, both sentences make sense, but they have different meanings. The first one means that you have met her, and the second one means that you haven't met her. The first one seems the more likely situation.

You could use a negative verb with a meaning similar to sentence 1 if you say something like this:

  • I've never met anyone as polite as she is.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher! So the second one means I never meet her face to face, right? In this situation I'm just talking with someone else. But she is mentioned in a talk. Is that right, teacher? Thank you, Kunthea

Hi Kunthea,

The second one means you've never met her before (note the present perfect here, not present simple). Yes, that's right - it may be that somebody is telling you about a person that you haven't met. But, in this situation, I think it would be unusual to make the judgement that "She is one of the politest people", since you don't have the personal experience of meeting and talking to her. A more common thing to say might be "She sounds very polite", or "I've never met anyone that polite".

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Thu, 22/04/2021 - 17:02

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Hi fantastic team! I am writing to find out more about 'Participle Adjectives'. I am trying to learn to use participles. However, I learnt that rule we can add '-ing' or '-ed' to verbs to create adjectives. But I am confused about one thing. Can I apply the rule to any verb when I want to create the adjective derived from that verb? Thank you in advance.

Hello Nevı,

Quite a number of participles can be used as adjectives, but I'm afraid that isn't true of all participles. As far as I know, there is no simple way to know this, though of course you can always look them up in the dictionary.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Got that, teacher. However, after I learnt that participles can be used adjectives,I started to pay attention adjectives in the news or books while reading. But some adjectives really confuses me. For example, the adj. 'unplanned' is not derived from the verb 'unplan' because it isn't not English! :) or Oxford Dictionary says. the adj. 'wanting' can't be used before noun. Why some are some adjectives derived from verb others not? or why some adjectives can't be used before nouns, teacher? I would be grateful if you could explain me confusing world of adjectives. Best wishes!

Hello Nevi,

Languages grow organically as they are used, so their is no plan guiding their development. This means that their systems are not always consistent.

I do think that the adjective unplanned comes from the verb plan: the verb has a past participle (planned) which can be used as an adjective. Once it exists as an adjective it follows its own development, including adding a prefix which did not originate from the verb. It's quite a common pattern: please > pleased > unpleased; love > loved > unloved etc.

 

You're correct that we do not use wanting before a noun. There are other adjectives like this, such as galore (meaning very many): bargains galore, savings galore etc. Sometimes there is an etymological reason for this such as a word coming from another language where it is used in a certain way, and sometimes it is simily a reflection of the organic and unplanned ways in which languages evolve.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 11:35

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Hi great team, I want to learn new grammar topic in that sentence . "Meeting will give education leaders a chance to share their experiences related to reopening schools." I nearly understand every grammar unit in that sentence,except "experiences related to reopening schools" Which grammar topic is that? Could you explain me please? It seems not to be reduced relative clause, maybe I don't know yet. Best wishes British Council( teachers and moderators. )

Hello Nevı,

Yes, I'd say it's a reduced relative clause, the full form being something like 'experiences [that are] related to reopening schools'.

Good work!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks teacher. I want to ask one more thing. Can we say these two sentences have the same meaning? 1)Australian resident travelling to New Zealand. 2)Australian resident who travelled to New Zealand Best wishes. Thanks a lot.

Hello Nevi,

These are clauses but are not complete sentences. Without knowing the full context in which they are used we can't say if they have the same or different meanings.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teacher, I learnt we can use long adjective phrases after the noun and it is called postposition. And suddenly I remembered your answer on my question which is above :) I wonder if it is possible to say 'related to reopening schools' is put in postposition. You'd be really helping me out.

Hello Nevi,

Yes, that makes sense to me. It seems as if you know your grammar better than I do -- good work!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mc2bav4 on Sun, 21/03/2021 - 17:57

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Hello there! I have a question regarding the comparative form of common, I have always heard and read "more common" but according to the info above it mentions that commoner can be used, too. Can you explain to me a little bit deeper about this, please? Thanks.

Hello mc2bav4,

Some 2-syllable words have preferred forms, so we say 'heavier' rather than 'more heavy', for example. However, there is often a choice. You can say 'commoner' or 'more common', just as both 'cleverer' and 'more clever' and both 'prettier' and 'more pretty' are correct.

 

I'm afraid there's no rule for this. It's just a case of recognising which forms are common and which are not.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Much appreciated, Peter. I think it's just a matter of getting accustomed to these variations and continue reading trustful resources as newspapers, books from good presses and other media. Also, do you have any other recommendations to know how to recognize which forms are common? Thanks, again. P.D. I didn't know that I could use 'more' with these adjectives. All my life I thought it was just as plain as heavier or prettier.

Hello again mc2bav4,

It's possible to do searches in online corpora to find the relative frequency of different words or phrases, but for most you need to register and sometimes subscribe (pay). I think the best approach is exactly what you are doing: expose yourself to as much authentic language as you can through reading, listening and watching, and you'll pick up natural usage as you go.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks again Peter. It was extremely rich speaking with you and clearing those doubts. I'm already taking a look into the site you suggested to me. Still I'll do as I have been doing so far, plus your recommendations. If any other doubt comes in, I'll reach you guys.

Submitted by Nevı on Thu, 11/03/2021 - 11:03

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Hi team,I don't understand one thing about modifying comparisons. My book says 'you can use a lot/far/much/miles + comparatives' for instance 'Tea is a lot healthier than coffee.' I don't understand I can also use -far healthier/much healthier/a lot healthier/miles healthier. I mean can I use all of them for one adjective, such as 'far more expensive/much more expensive/miles more expensive/a lot more expensive? Thanks a lot.

Hi Nevı,

Yes! That's right. You can use any of these words before the adjective. They all have the same meaning. But, in style, miles is informal.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yokohama on Thu, 04/03/2021 - 05:19

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I see many websites like bbc use "the most easy way". I even saw the book with similar title. Is there any tendency or clear instructions why we should be using that instead of easiest? Thank you in advance!

Hello Yokohama,

I wouldn't say 'the most easy way'; I would say 'the easiest way'. I've never seen anyone else use 'the most easy' and I'm afraid I can't explain why they do.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mynameiscg on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 11:32

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Dear Sir, I am having trouble with these 2 sentences : -Anna is the taller of the two sisters. -Anna is the taller among the two sisters. Could you please tell me which one is grammatically correct? Thank you very much
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 07:36

In reply to by mynameiscg

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Hello mynameiscg,

The first sentence is correct. We don't use 'among' when we are talking about only two. You could use it with a larger group and a superlative adjective 'the tallest among them', however.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Azrostami on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 09:08

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Hi Which one is correct? North America’s strongest earthquake or North America’s the strongest earthquake
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 13:45

In reply to by Azrostami

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Hello Azrostami,

The first one is correct; the second one is not.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ahmad 920 on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 17:17

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hi are these sentences correct? Mohammad is more careful than me. You find that when he answers the tricky questions. you will find mohammad is the most careful among us thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 08:05

In reply to by ahmad 920

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Hi ahmad 920,

There are several ways the sentences could be changed, but as I don't know what your intended meaning is I can't suggest them. As the sentences are, there is only one change needed, which is to capitalise the word after the second full stop (you > You).

There should be a full stop at the end, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Julia19862008 on Wed, 03/02/2021 - 21:41

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Dear Sir, which variant is correct when we use the adjective “friendly” in a comparative degree: friendlier or more friendly? Would you please give a full explanation? Thank you
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 08:58

In reply to by Julia19862008

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Hello Julia 19862008

Both forms are used very frequently and so you can use the one you prefer. In very specific formal situations (for example, writing a book or article), the publisher might prefer one form over the other. But the vast majority of the time, either one should be fine.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Atlantics on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 10:39

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Could you tell me if this sentence is correct: A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more clear. or shall I say: A cry that can’t be any clearer. Thanks a lot, Regards

Hello Atlantics,

'any clearer' is the best form here. I'd also recommend changing 'can't' to 'couldn't': 'A cry that couldn't be any clearer'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by CHÉKYTAN on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 14:22

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Dear sir, is this sentence correct? Here I have used inversion with comparison: Children spend more time with teachers than do they with parents.
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Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 09:06

In reply to by CHÉKYTAN

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Hello Chékytan,

We don't use inversion in comparisons like this -- instead, you should use the normal word order: 'Children spend more time with teachers than [they do] with their parents.'

You can also leave out the words in brackets and still have a grammatically comparative statement.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigitcan on Tue, 24/11/2020 - 15:37

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Hi team I confused about this sentence What's the funniest advert you have seen recently? I have been thinking right sentence is '' What's the funniest advert have you seen recently? '' Why mine isn't true?
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Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 07:25

In reply to by Yigitcan

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Hello Yigitcan,

The sentence is correct because the main verb in the sentence is 'is', not 'you have seen'. It might help to simplify the sentence to 'What is the funniest advert?' In this case, it's clear that 'is' is the main verb.

'you have seen recently' is part of the relative clause '(that) you have seen recently', which gives us more information about the advert.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Sat, 31/10/2020 - 23:15

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Hello team, I'm slightly confused. The description described that If an adjective ends in a vowel and a consonant, we double the consonant. However, the words 'new' and 'clean' do not obey the rule. Why?

Hello Via,

The rule on this page is a general one and 'newer' and 'cleaner' are exceptions to it. The best thing to do is check a dictionary or reference book when you want to be sure of the spelling. I'm sorry for any confusion.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sherol on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 13:47

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Hello, teacher! Can you explain me - What's the diference between "lower" and "below"? I didn't find anything about this.

Hello Sherol,

Both of these words can be used in different ways. If you look up 'lower', for example, you'll see that as a verb, it has at least three meanings, and it can also be an adjective. 'below' is a preposition and an adjective.

I'd recommend you have a look at the following two explanations, which I think will clarify this for you. But if you have a specific question after reading them, please don't hesitate to ask us again:

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Santiago0227 on Tue, 08/09/2020 - 12:52

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"It was the worst film I have ever seen" - Is it different from "It was the worst film I had ever seen"? "He was one of the few executives to meet the king." -- Is it different from "He is one of the few executives to meet/have met the king."? Grateful for your help teachers!

Hello Santiago0227,

Yes, there is a difference. When you say 'I have ever seen', you are speaking about your whole life, from the time you were born (in the past) up until the present moment (the present). In Spanish, this would be something like 'que jamás he visto'.

'I had ever seen' refers to a point of time in the past. By itself, this sentence doesn't specify when that past time is, but I suppose it would be clear in text. In Spanish, this would be 'que había visto jamás' (hasta aquel momento aquí no especificado).

If you say 'He was', you're only speaking about the past, whereas 'He is' also refers to the present. If it were me, I'd probably say 'who met' instead of 'to meet' or 'to have met', but perhaps in some specific situation 'to meet' would be better. It's difficult to say without knowing more about the situation.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team