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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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Basic level

Comments

"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

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

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

"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".

It's really educative.

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

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

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

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

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