Comparative and superlative adjectives

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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Average
Average: 4 (556 votes)

Submitted by in-rin on Sat, 08/06/2024 - 09:37

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Hi

The comparative form of "new" is "newer". Doesn't it follow the vowel-consonant pattern? Are there any other words like that? thank you

Hello in-rin,

Well spotted! There is a general exception to the doubling rule and that is for adjectives which end with vowel + w or vowel + y:

  • slow > slower
  • new > newer
  • grey > greyer

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Thu, 25/01/2024 - 08:47

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Could you check this sentence for me please?
The maintenance cost of electric buses are lower than diesel buses.

Hello Khangvo2812,

You can say 'The maintenance cost... is' or 'The maintenance costs... are'. Other than that, the sentence is fine.

Please note that we generally don't just check sentences. The site focuses on explaining usage and rules rather than proof-reading.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Paulinecwy on Thu, 16/11/2023 - 03:47

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Is 'more naughty than' correct?

Hello  Paulinecwy,

Yes it is. Naughty is one of those adjectives where more than one form is possible: more naughty and naughtier.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Mon, 23/10/2023 - 16:35

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Hello,
Could you check this sentence for me pls?
Vietnamese national football team is the strongest team among Asean countries.

Hi Khangvo2812,

It's good but a correction is needed: either add "the" (The Vietnamese national football team ...) or change the first word: Vietnam's national football team ...

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Karen130203 on Mon, 19/06/2023 - 16:30

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These exercises were helpful for me, I didn't find them so difficult

Submitted by ArantzaSiles on Mon, 19/06/2023 - 07:06

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Hi sir, I'm grateful for this lesson, actually it was interesting and useful to me, thanks!

Submitted by Emiliano425621 on Mon, 19/06/2023 - 01:27

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Dear Sir,

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to reach out to express my satisfaction with the exercises that were assigned. I am pleased to inform you that I have successfully completed them and found them to be incredibly comprehensive and beneficial. They have provided me with valuable opportunities to apply and reinforce the concepts explained in our sessions.

Hello Emiliano,

We're very pleased to hear that you found the explanation and exercises useful!

Thanks for letting us know.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

I wanted to express my gratitude for the exercises you assigned. I have completed them and found them to be incredibly helpful in reinforcing the concepts we discussed. They provided me with a valuable learning experience and I feel more equipped as a result.

Thank you for offering such comprehensive exercises that allowed me to put theory into practice. The knowledge gained from these exercises will undoubtedly benefit me in the future.

Submitted by Vale_12 on Sun, 18/06/2023 - 23:46

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Example: México is the best country of the world

Submitted by Karla Minor O on Sun, 18/06/2023 - 02:40

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Hello, Sir
I have already done the exercises and I find them very complete and very helpful to put into practice what is explained.
I take with me a great experience and a new learning experience.

Submitted by thatha. on Fri, 14/04/2023 - 21:00

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If we learnt that adjectives ending in a CVC pattern must be doubled the last consonant and then added with -er, why isn't "slowwer" or "newwer" correct?

Hi thatha.,

It's because although these adjectives end in "w" (a consonant), the "w" is actually part of the vowel sound ("ow" in "slow", and "ew" in "new"). 

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by m4400 on Sat, 01/04/2023 - 02:17

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Hello!

I am trying to figure out why, in an English sentence, if there are multiple adjectives used for one noun, and one of those adjectives is superlative, it seems that all of them must be superlative.

For example, my student wrote the following: I bought the three large freshest looking cabbages to make Korean Kimchi.

I couldn't explain why that was incorrect, I just knew that I would say 'three of the largest, freshest-looking cabbages...'.

Could one of you provide an explanation?
Thanks in advance!

Hi m4400,

I'm not sure if there's a grammatical explanation for this! It might be more about the conventional ideas that we tend to express. The student is saying that there were only three large cabbages in the shop, and they were also the freshest-looking ones, but this might be a bit unclear for listeners/readers to understand and your suggestion sounds clearer and more natural.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Iryna_hn on Wed, 22/03/2023 - 10:33

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Good day, dear experts!
Please, help me to understand why there is "elder" in the name of the game "The Elder Scrolls" when we know that the comparative of "old" is "older". Is there a mistake in this name?
Thank you in advance!

Hello Iryna_hn,

I don't know much about this game, but I suspect 'elder' refers to an important or respected person in a group rather than being a comparative form of 'old'. Have a look at the Longman entry for 'elder' and scroll down to line 2 of the second meaning and you'll see what I mean.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by leo15722 on Tue, 21/03/2023 - 22:04

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Hello! Can I ask you a question? So, I know that we can use the definite article with comparative adjectives for showing that one thing depends on another as it's written in this website too. But, what about this sentence "the farther side of the mountain"? What's the explanation for it since there are no things depending one another in that sentence? Maybe when we have an implied comparison we can use the definite article too?
Thank you in advance. :)

Hello leo15722,

I don't think this is a question of two things being related in the way described above. I think this is simply an identified and specific item. Just as we would say 'the side of the mountain' (we know which side of which mountain we are talking about), so we say 'the farther side of the mountain'. You could use other articles if you conceive other contexts:

a farther side of the mountain > we know which mountain; it has several farther sides and we are talking about one of them but not saying which one. For example: "This side looks easy to climb. Now I don't know the mountain well, but I've heard that there's a farther side of the mountain which is harder to climb."

the farther side of a mountain > we are imagining that there are only two sides (rather like we say 'the dark side of the moon') and are talking about any mountain. For example: "The farther side of a mountain is always tempting to a mountaineer."

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Sat, 04/02/2023 - 22:14

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Hello!

Could you please clarify the following:

Should we always use "the" with superlatives forms? Is it a mistake to say "She is most beautiful woman in this city", "He is smartest boy in the class?" or "They bought most delicious cake"?

I'm very very grateful for the work you are doing, thank you for your important help, and thank you for answering this post beforehand!!!

Hello howtosay_

Yes, you should always use 'the' with superlative forms. It is definitely necessary when there is a phrase like 'in this city', 'in the class', 'in the world, etc.

Your sentence about cake isn't actually a superlative construction. Instead, 'most' means 'very'.

It's also possible to see a sentence like 'They bought the most delicious cake'. There might be some rare exceptions, but normally a sentence like this is superlative because of the context. For example, perhaps in the previous sentences they were talking about all the different cakes in a bakery. So even though the sentence doesn't explicitly mention the other cakes, it's clear from context that there are many cakes.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello, Kirk!

Yes, it does help. I haven't known before that "most" also means "very".

Thank you very much indeed for your precious help!!!

Submitted by AydaChan2003 on Fri, 20/01/2023 - 09:30

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Hello. Good morning sir/ma'am. This question has been bugging me lately.. Which one is correct? 1.he's the cleverest of *all the other* students.
2.he's the cleverest of *the other students*
Or are they both correct??

Hello AydaChan2003,

They're both OK, though I think people would probably say 1 more often than 2.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello AydaChan2003,

Both are grammatically correct and any difference would depend on the context in which they are used.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir!
Could you please elaborate on what types of context? Also I have a vocabulary question.. I'm fairly new here and I don't know whether there's a separate page for asking vocabulary questions; is there really one? If there's not, then I might as well ask it here (sorry I know this isn't related to the subject but I got to know this) what's the difference between deadly, lethal, and fatal?

Hello AydaChan2003,

It's really a question of emphasis. 'All' adds rhetorical emphasis so if you want to make your statement stronger (e.g. when making a speech or trying to persuade someone of something) then it might be useful.

The main difference in the words is that fatal means someone died. Deadly and lethal can also describe potential - in other words they can also describe something is extremely dangerous. Thus, I could say 'It was a truly deadly situation and I was lucky to escape alive' but I could not use the word 'fatal' there.

There are some other differences in use, so you can talk about a deadly/lethal poison, for example, or use the words metaphorically to mean that someone is very good at performing a task: a footballer can be lethal in front of goal, or a lawyer can be deadly during cross-examination.

For differences like this, which are really about use rather than meaning, the best thing is to look each word up in an online dictionary, where you'll be able to compare the different entries.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir! Oh my God that was the BEST explanation I've ever seen; thanks a lot!!! I had looked up their differences before but still couldn't distinguish each separately but now with your awesome explanation, I can! Once again, thanks a lot! May God bless you 🙏

Submitted by cooler48 on Mon, 26/12/2022 - 11:55

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Hi Jonathan
Fewer and smaller are comparative (forms)of inferiority ,aren't they?

Submitted by paddyjosy on Thu, 24/11/2022 - 17:01

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Hello Team .
The sentences
He can run faster than me .
or He can run faster than I .
Which is the correct usage?

I can run faster than he or
I can run faster than him .
Which is the correct usage?
Kindly guide. Thanks.

Hello paddyjosy,

The standard use is 'me' and 'him'. After 'than' we use an object pronoun not a subject pronoun.

You may find some instances where some users prefer 'I' as they interpret the sentence to be 'He can run faster than I can run', but this is very much a minority view.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello paddyjosy,
(than) actually considered as a proposition in modern English. As a result, we use after than a pronoun in object form (for example: me, you, him, her, us, them, and whom)

Submitted by paddyjosy on Sat, 19/11/2022 - 01:18

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Hi .
This is regarding the use of the adjective' late 'in the comparative and superlative degrees.
Some sources have mentioned it as later and latest (time)or latter and last (position).
Can u kindly explain it with example sentences.
Thanks.

Hello paddyjosy,

'Later' refers to time. It is often used as an adverb: See you later!

When used as an adjective it is the opposite of 'earlier': Do you want to go to the earlier performance or the later one?

'Latest' means the most recent: Have you heard the latest news? / I just bought her latest novel. It's great!

 

As you say, 'latter' is most often used to refer to the second item when two are mentioned. Its opposite is 'former': Would you prefer tea or coffee? > The latter, please.

'Latter' can also refer to the something occurring nearer to the end of something than the beginning: The latter part of the century was more stable / In his latter years he suffered from heart disease.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot Peter.
It was helpful.
But is there a comparative and superlative degree for the adjective 'late'?

Hello again paddyjosy,

The comparative and superlative forms of 'late' are later and latest.

'Latter' does not have comparative or superlative forms. There is an adverb (latterly) which is a formal synonym for recently.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks once again for the prompt reply Peter.
It's really confusing though that 'later' means afterwards and 'latest' means the most recent ,hence a change in meaning all together.

Hello Peter
Is this usage correct ?
No other programme is as late as ours.
Our performance is later than all other programmes .
Other programmes are the latest.

Hello paddyjosy,

Yes, the use of the different forms of 'late' are all correct in these sentences. I might suggest 'The latest programmes are other ones' for the last sentence because 'latest' meaning 'most recent' is more common than the meaning that refers to time, but your sentence would be fine in context and in any case is grammatically correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team