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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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 15/11/2021 - 07:34

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Hello. Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct? If so, what is its meaning? I feel that it's meaningless!
- My car is less small than yours.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

In most situations, that would be wrong -- instead, you could say 'My car is smaller than yours'.

In certain informal contexts, though, native speakers might say something like this. For example, if two friends are comparing their two different cars and in theory both cars have the same space inside them but one friend wants to say her car feels bigger than her friend's car, she could say this.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by giangnguyen.tlgt on Wed, 20/10/2021 - 19:11

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Dear Sir,
"City breaks are more popular with tourists than with locals."
Can I use "with" after "than" in this case?
Thanks!

Hello giangnguyen.tigt,

Yes, you can use '...than with...' as well as just '...than...'

As the second 'with' is implied there's no need to repeat it, but it's fine to include it. It's really a stylistic choice.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Fri, 13/08/2021 - 21:23

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Hi there again fantastic team! I am writing to find out more about following sentence "Doctors said patients infected with Delta appear to become ill more quickly." I wonder if the part "infected with Delta'' is heavy adjective phrase so it comes after the noun -patients-? Like, for example, /information necessary to understand the issue\ 'necessary to understand the issue' is heavy adjective phrase. I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion. Best wishes!

Hello Nevi,

I think the best way to understand the sentence is as a reduced relative clause:

...patients who are infected with DELTA....

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hmm. For example, Europeans who wanted a better life immigrated to the U.S. Europeans wanting a better life immigrated to the U.S. 'wanting a better life' is a reduced relative clause. I haven't known there are another type of reduced relative clauses like you said "... patients who are infected with Delta ...." 'patients infected with Delta" Could you please explain to me what kind of reduced relative clauses in English grammar. I'd really appreciate it.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 15/08/2021 - 08:05

In reply to by Nevı

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Hello Nevi,

Not all grammarians use the term 'reduced relative clause' for examples like these, preferring to describe them as 'participle phrases'. As this name implies, they are headed by a participle and this can be a present participle (-ing form) or a past participle (third form of the verb).

 

The difference is that the -ing form has an active meaning (in your example: who want > wanting) while the third form has a passive meaning (in the original example: who are infected > infected).

 

There is a good summary on the relevant wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduced_relative_clause

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hmm. Got that. But you said ... people who are infected with Delta... has a passive meaning. Who or what infected people? People are infected with Delta by who? Thank you in advance.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 16/08/2021 - 07:44

In reply to by Nevı

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Hello Nevi,

A person can be infected by a virus. However, I didn't say that it was a passive verb form; I said that it has a passive meaning. In other words the participle represents something that happens to the subject (the person is infected) rather than something that the subject does (the person wants something).


As I mentioned, the term 'reduced relative clause' is not one which is universally accepted. You can find it in traditional grammars but many modern grammars prefer to avoid it, and one of the reasons is because it can lead to ambiguity of this kind.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Tue, 22/06/2021 - 12:04

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Could you please explain the difference and the usage of the two sentences? 1.Banarasi Dupattas have their roots deep in the rich culture of India (adjective---deep here acting as a predicative adjective). 2.Banarasi Dupattas have their deep roots in the rich culture of India (adjective---deep here acting as an attributive adjective). Is the meaning same in the two sentences or different? Is it possible to always have the same meaning with other adjectives even when we interchange them?

Hi Mussorie,

The meaning is only slightly different. In sentence 2, deep clearly describes roots. But in sentence 1, it doesn't, because it's very unusual to put deep directly after the noun it is intended to describe (it's normally put before the noun, in attributive position). Somebody reading sentence 1 will interpret deep as referring to in the rich culture of India, not to roots. So, we need to clarify what the writer intends to describe with the word deep.

 

I should also point out that in sentence 1, deep is not properly called a predicative adjective, because a predicative adjective needs to follow a copula verb (e.g. Their roots are deep). Adjectives that follow a noun directly (without a copula verb) are called postpositive adjectives. There are not many of them, and they mostly occur in fixed phrases (e.g.: the manager responsible / persons unknown / the attorney general), or after pronouns (e.g. something interesting) or superlatives (e.g. the best option available).

 

Most adjectives can be put in either attributive or predicative position, with no change in meaning (e.g. an expensive restaurant / the restaurant is expensive). Some adjectives can be put in attributive position only (e.g. mere) or in predicative position only (e.g. afraid).

 

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Jonathan I got it, but I need some clarification about sentence 1. Here, in this case, is the "deep" adjective? If yes, then it is a prepositive adjective, right. In this case, if deep is modifying the rich culture of India, then how it is used.

Hi Mussorie,

No, in sentence 1 deep is actually an adverb. It’s at the head of the adverb phrase deep in the rich culture of India. This whole phrase modifies have their roots.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, in the first sentence, is "deep" not possible as an object complement to "their roots"?

Hi Mussorie,

Actually, I think you’re right and I’ve changed my mind. Yes, it could be an adjective and an object complement.

The complement could be the whole phrase: deep in the rich culture of India.

Or, the complement could be just deep, with in the rich culture of India as a separate prepositional phrase.

The context in which this sentence is said will likely show which way of interpreting the sentence is the intended one but on reading this sentence in isolation, I understand it the first way – with deep modifying in the rich culture of India.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Sun, 23/05/2021 - 11:28

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Hi there fabulous team, I made some inferences to understand the world of adjectives. I would be grateful if you could check whether they are true. -Melting glaciers can cause big floods. (the adj. melting is comes from the verb 'to melt' ) -The recorded sound is excellent. (the adj. recorded is comes from the verb 'to record'. -The team found fossilised dinosaur bones. (the adj. fossilised is comes from the verb 'to fossilise'.) -It's a nature reserve and a protected area. (the adj. protected is comes from the verb 'to protect') -A hospital that can adapt to changing needs. (the adj. changing is comes from the verb 'to change') I look forward to hearing from you. Best wishes!

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

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

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