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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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

Submitted by LubNko525 on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 11:29

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Hi Sir, She is the youngest child ever to sail around the world. ----- How is it different from She was the youngest...? We are the first firm to have been given this award. vs We were the first firm to be given this award. - Is there any difference? Thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 08:10

In reply to by LubNko525

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Hi LubNko525,

In your first example, there is a difference. If you use the present tense (is) then we know that she is still the youngest child to have done this. If you use the past tense (was) then we do not know this; it is possible that someone younger than her sailed around the world later.

 

In your second example, there is no such ambiguity as being first is not something that can change; whoever was the first to do something remains the first for ever. Thus in this example there is no difference.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bug on Fri, 06/11/2020 - 07:41

In reply to by LubNko525

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"She is the youngest child" i think they added the word child to be more specific if it were just "She was the youngest" one could thinks shes a yound adult. "we are the first firm" is meaning now " we were the first firm" meaning in the past hope this help:)

Submitted by anssir66 on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 20:21

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"Proud" seems to be missing from the list of adjectives that can be compared both "more-most" and "er-est". You also could mention that there are one- or two-syllable adjectives that cannot be compared with "r-st", for example "prone".
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 19:45

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It's really educative.

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 06/06/2020 - 15:03

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Hi! The definition of an adjective is a word which describes a noun, while the definition of a verb is a word which describes an action. My question is why is it that when we say an adjective describes (i.e. an adjective is used to describe) a noun, we mean it to say that the adjective provides additional information about the noun, however when the word "describe" is used under the second definition (i.e. a verb describes an action), we mean it to say that the verb refers to the action (i.e. verb = action, for instance, the verb "run" refers to the action of running) and not a case where the verb provides additional information about the action, as what an adjective does for a noun. Are there two different meanings to the word "describe"? Regards, Tim
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 06/06/2020 - 15:14

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim

This is an interesting question, and one that you could probably spend quite some time researching. While some teachers might use the word 'describe' -- I've checked, and this is indeed what the Cambridge Dictionary says, more analytical descriptions tend to use the word 'modify' instead of 'describe' -- for example, the Wikipedia article for Adjective. When we say 'modify', we're referring to a grammatical modifier, which you can read more about if you follow that last link.

This is not an area that we get into on LearnEnglish, I'm afraid, but I hope you find those sources helpful.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 14:05

In reply to by Kirk

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Hi Kirk, For the first link to Cambridge dicitonary, the link brings you to the page on "definition of verb". Did you in fact meant to provide the link to the page on the definition of an adjective, as in "https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/adjective" and not a verb? I had assumed that the links you provided are meant to compare between the definitions of an adjective
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 14:18

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim

Yes, you're right! I've just fixed the link so that it goes to the entry for 'adjective' rather than 'verb'.

Sorry for the confusion!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivian Sayuri Araki on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 14:44

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Why the consonant of the word 'new' is not duplicated, following the rule that says vowel + consonant we double the consonant?? Like 'new, newwer ,newwest' But the right ends up being new, newer newest

Submitted by Bambam. on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 00:26

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Comparatives:used to compare diferents between the two objects they modif(smaller,faster,higher).. Example My house is larger than hers Superlative:used to describe an object which is at the upper or lower limit of a quality(the tallest,the smallest, the fastest).... Example This is the smallest box I've ever seen

Submitted by Alexander. on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 20:16

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A quantifier is a word or phrase which is used before a noun to indicate the amount or quantity: 'Some', 'many', 'a lot of' and 'a few' are examples of quantifiers. Quantifiers can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

Submitted by Marco on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 01:46

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I think this is an excelent material, I clarified some questions that I had.

Submitted by Andy on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 01:40

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This helps me a lot to review the knowledge I have!

Submitted by IsaacAC on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 00:56

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The explanation was good but I would put some images to do the topic easier.

Submitted by Alonso Morales… on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 00:31

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The information obtained is very useful and helps a lot to better understand this topic of superlatives and comparatives

Submitted by Maria H.E on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 22:28

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this was a very useful information... it has complete information about how to use comparatives and superlatives in the correct way :)

Submitted by francini on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 21:24

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excellent explanation and very easy to understand. I would like to remember the most common mistake is using the superlative when there are only two items. For example: Incorrect: Mary was the tallest of the two girls. Correct: Mary was the taller of the two girls. When a word with three or more syllables is used as a comparative, –er and –est are typically not used, but rather “more” and “most” are used before the adverb.

Submitted by Diego Navarro on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 21:10

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thanks for the content it helped me a lot since this topic is very difficult for me.

Submitted by Erikacastillo on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 20:46

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An easy way to study the comparative and superlative form is: I did not forget it That the comparison is used to compare the differences between two objects We use that when we want to compare one thing with another: Angela's room is cleaner than Sue's. in the superlative we use it when we want to emphasize that the subject is at the upper or lower end of a quality. We use the with superlative adjectives: Angela's room is the cleanest. There are some rules to form the comparative and superlative. 1. For one-syllable adjectives: Superlative adds: "-est" the fastest Comparative: adds: "-er" faster 2. For one-syllable adjectives ending in "e": Superlative adds: "-st" best Comparative: add" -er nicer 3. For one-syllable adjectives ending in consonant vowel consonant: Superlative adds: consonant "-est" biggest Comparative:add: consonant "-er" hotter 4. For two syllable adjectives ending in "y": Superlative:replace "y" with: "-iest" happiest Comparative:replace " y" with: "-ier" funnier 5. For adjectives with two or more syllables: Superlative : adds: "the most" / "the least" Most beautiful Comparative : add: "more" / "less" more beautiful ,less beautiful