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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Hello again Raj

I'm not familiar with this particular collocation. An internet search suggests that it may come from the app Evernote, but I'm not sure about that. It does sound grammatically correct to me. In English there are many noun + noun combinations, e.g. 'coffee pot', 'tea cup', 'swimming pool', and this seems to be a relatively new one.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Cathymini28 提交于 周五, 13/03/2020 - 09:31

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Hello, I'd like to know how to form the comparative form of the adjective "empty". The grammar rule says that for an adjective that ends with "Y" we need to change it into " IER" (eg happy=happier) However, I heard this morning on the radio "more empty than". Could you please tell me if "emptier than" would also have been possible? Thank you

Hello Cathymini28

You are correct in thinking that 'emptier' is a comparative form of the adjective 'empty', but it's also true that many people use 'more empty' sometimes.

It's great that you noticed this!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Cathymini28 提交于 周五, 13/03/2020 - 15:12

Cathymini28 回复

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Thank you Kirk! Best wishes. Cathy

Janaka Liayana… 提交于 周三, 25/12/2019 - 12:50

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Dear teacher, As I didn't get an answer for the question sent on 07 October, I would like to raise it again. thank you, What is the correct way bellow When we use comparative adjectives. 1. He is taller than I. 2. He is taller than me. 3. He is taller than I am. Thank you

Hello Janaka

For most people, all three of these are correct. As far as I know, no one would have any issue with 3, but there are some who prefer 2 to 1, and others who prefer 1 to 2. I usually use 2 or 3.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Risa warysha 提交于 周一, 02/12/2019 - 21:27

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hello Sir, Could you please tell me whether my sentences and the reasons are correct or not. ' she works harder than her late grandmother did.' ' The new car is more expensive than the old one was.' I used 'did' because it refers to my grandmother that has passed away and 'was' because the old car is broken or isn't used anymore. Thank you,Sir

Hello Risa warysha,

Both sentences are correct but we generally don't add the final verbs as they are understood from the sentence as a whole:

She works harder than her late grandmother.

The new car is more expensive than the old one.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

goodusername 提交于 周六, 26/10/2019 - 14:38

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hello, I have a problem with the adjective oversize: I got into an argument with a friend weather more oversize is a correct usage of the adjective or not. To me it seems to be already in a comparative form, so I really wanna know if it can be used like shown previously

Hello goodusername

It would be a bit unusual to say 'more oversized', but in some contexts it could probably work, for example, if you are comparing two oversized items and one is bigger than the other.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Backlight 提交于 周日, 20/10/2019 - 08:15

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Hello, May I ask these sentences are correct or not. 1) My friend is more careful than me. 2) My friend is careful than me. 3) My friend is carefully than I or me. 4) My friend is careful than I or me. 1 Until 4 is only using the comparative and in sentences 3 I know it was wrong but I still do not know why sentence 3 is wrong. Thank You in advance for answering my question.

Hello Backlight,

The first sentence is correct. The others are incorrect.

We use 'than' after comparative forms. In (2) and (4) you have normal adjectives, not comparative forms. In sentence (3) you have an adverb, not a comparative form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Janaka Liayana… 提交于 周一, 07/10/2019 - 05:53

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Dear teacher, What is the correct way bellow When we use comparative adjectives. 1. He is taller than I. 2. He is taller than me. 3. He is taller than I am. Thank you

Hello Janaka Liayanapathirana

All three of these are correct. I would recommend you use 2 in informal or neutral situations. 1 and 3 are appropriate for formal situations.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Alicia Landeros 提交于 周日, 14/04/2019 - 06:18

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Hello everybody.... I´ve got a question, first of all I´ve been checking the use of adjectives (as comparatives, superlatives, adjective ends ED and ING), I understand what is the use of which of them, but I don´t know if those ones have any special rule to transform the "basic form" of the adjective into the others. For example: Shock - Shocker (I´m not sure if this is the correct form) - Shockest - Shocked - Shocking Horrible - More horrible - Most horrible - Horrified* - Horrifying* Does anybody know something about it? Thanks for all your support, the Learn English team makes a great job :)
Hello Alicia, Some of the rules are easy to remember, such as the ones on the page about forming comparatives and superlatives. Other rules are much less consistent, I'm afraid. The first thing you need to do is to identify the adjective. For example, 'horrible' is an adjective, but 'shock' is not - it is a verb or a noun. You also need to recognise different words. For example, 'horrified' and 'horrible' have difference meanings: horrible = very unpleasant (a characteristic) horrified = shocked in a very unpleasant way (an feeling/emotion) ~ I think the best advice I can give is for you to make clear notes as you learn vocabulary. As you build up more and more examples you will start to see the patterns instinctively rather than through applying many complex rules. This is how native speakers learn such things, after all. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

YSATO201602 提交于 周三, 06/03/2019 - 14:41

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Hello Sir I have a question about the usage of the superlatives. 1.) The “smallest” number of women spend their leisure time in playing computer games. 2.) The “least” number of women spend their leisure time in playing computer games. 3.) The “fewest” number of women spend their leisure time in playing computer games. Which sentence sounds natural to native speakers? I felt all of the three were correct, but some native speakers said that we don’t use “smallest” in this case. So I just want to ask you whether it is true or not. Thank you. Regards

Hello YSATO201602,

I think it's perfectly fine to use the smallest (or lowest) number of..., just as it is fine to use the biggest (or the highest, the greatest) number of...

The other two options sound rather strange to me. They are, of course, illogical as the superlative refers not to women but to number, and so least and fewesr are rather jarring. However, your question is about which are used and it is not uncommon for 'illogical' forms to come into use.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Mr. Peter M Thank you very much for your help! I could understand the difference quite clearly and I’d choose “smallest” or “lowest” in my writing! Best Regards YSATO201602

Pratapsingh 提交于 周日, 24/02/2019 - 14:47

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Rita is more beautiful than ........ of her sisters. A. any other B. any C. some D. all Dear sir, I know the correct answer is 'all', but I want to know the reason why all is correct, why 'some' or 'any' is not correct

OlgaT 提交于 周一, 26/11/2018 - 15:07

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Hello, I can't find information about the degrees of comparison for the word "little" in use. It's an irregular adjective, is expected "less, (the) least". But in the expression, for example: "little girl" - how can we make comparative and superlative degrees? Basing on which grammar rules can it be explained to children?

Hello OlgaT,

The word 'little' has more than one meaning.

When we use it to describe quantity (a little time) then the progression is as you say: little > less > the least.

When we use it to describe size (a little girl) the progression is little > littler > the littlest.

However, littler/the littlest are considered non-standard by most speakers. The overwhelming majority avoid it and simply substitute smaller/the smallest

The alternatives (more litltle/the most little) are also used rarely and sound old-fashioned.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the answer. Yes, it was about the second meaning of the word. I understand it's just a very special word that is substituted with synonyms when making comparative and superlative.

SajadKhan 提交于 周四, 12/07/2018 - 10:36

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Hi There, I have been learning here for almost two weeks, and it is my first comment here. I was going through the section "Adjectives- intensifiers with comparative and superlative". I read that "much" intensifier can be used with a superlative adjective but there was no example for it. Can you give me some example? "He is much the best in the field." is it correct? And also why is there no comment sections below some articles?

Hello SajadKhan,

Your example is correct. The phrase 'much the best' has a similar meaning to 'easily the best'. It's quite a formal phrasing.

Most pages have comments sections but some do not. Generally, these are pages which are abbreviated versions of other pages or pages which have relatively little information on them, if I remember correctly.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

SonuKumar 提交于 周二, 26/06/2018 - 09:52

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Sir, I've read it that If a noun requires more degree of an adjective, So we use the strong adjective to modify that noun rather than using the positive form of an adjective with the intensifier 'Very'. Like this: Very dirty to Filthy, Very Good to Excellent or Fantastic, Very bad to Awful and so on. Is it true or a widely followed rule and does the same apply for adverbs ? Like this: Very well to Excellently or Fantastically ?

Hi SonuKumar,

Strong adjectives are quite common, but people also use, for example, 'very dirty'. I'm afraid I can't really be much more specific than that, as what people say depends heavily on context and their own way of speaking. If you are writing for a teacher or an exam, strong adjectives, judiciously used, are probably going to impress your reader more, though I'm not sure that's what you're thinking of.

The same 'rule' (though I'm not sure I'd called it a rule, really) doesn't really apply to adverbs. These adverbs exist, for the most part, but are quite unusual.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir This sentence is from your website grammar' topic 'superlative' and I would like to know that usually the adjective elder, eldest is use among brothers and sisters in a family but not old and older. But this sentence ' I have three sisters, Jan is the oldest and Anjela is the youngest. My question is 'Jan is the eldest and Anjela is the youngest is the normal way of writing. I am I right? Thank you. Regards

Hi Lal,

'eldest' and 'oldest' mean exactly the same thing in this sentence. Traditionally, 'eldest' was probably more common than 'oldest', but I'd say both forms are used equally these days.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, to indicate that a person was born first than another we can use "older", To indicate was born after we can use "younger"

davidinh 提交于 周三, 03/01/2018 - 16:28

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Hi, There is an example in Longman dictionary as below: Women are more at risk from the harmful effects of alcohol than men. I tried to find out what its structure is, but I couldn't, especially "at risk from the harmful effects of alcohol" : What is its role? And how to find its role? I guess it's an adjective phrase. Is it right? If yes, why it's an adjective phrase? I can't find the theory to explain it in detail. Please show me how to understand the structure of above sentence. Thank you! Best, David

Peter M. 提交于 周四, 04/01/2018 - 08:23

davidinh 回复

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Hi David,

'At risk of' is an example of a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases can have adjectival or adverbial functions in the sentence. In this case it is adjectival.

If you want to analyse sentences for the functions of various parts then a good place to start is an online parsing tool. They are not perfect but are a good starting point. You can find many online, such as this one.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

JamlMakav 提交于 周一, 04/12/2017 - 21:18

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Hello, Is there any difference between ''The respected people went . . .'' and ''The people respected went . . . ?'' I know that there are ed-adjectives that can be used in both positions with a changing meaning. I could not find the list of these. Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

The first phrase looks fine to me. The second does not look correct.

Some -ed forms can be used in participle phrases or as reduced relative clauses - see this page for some examples. That may be what you have in mind.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello once again, Thank you for the answer. I am sorry that I confused you; I have a better example now: ''The responsible people'' and ''The people responsible.'' I remembered only this adjective, which changes the meaning when moved. Are there more of this type (dependent-on-position adjectives)? Thank you.

Hello JamlMakav,

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with a list of adjectives like this, but you might want to read through the Cambridge Dictionary's page on Adjective position.

It also might be useful to search for pages on adjectives in 'attributive' or 'predicative' position -- these are the technical terms for position before a noun ('attributive') and after a link verb ('predicative'). This is a slightly different but related topic to what you're asking about here.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

MCWSL 提交于 周一, 18/09/2017 - 21:27

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Hello, The context is that Joe is being French even though he is not, and Sarah is using irony. The adjective isn't gradable, so how can she express what I mean? Sarah to Joe: ''Can't you be more of French?'' Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

If you take out 'of', the sentence will work. You could also change the verb to 'act' and it will also work (without 'of').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

kelly s. 提交于 周日, 17/09/2017 - 17:46

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Hello again!! I would like to ask whether the second "as" in the "as...as" structure can be implied, when there are no modifiers, as well. Eg. -"I thought Route 6 was the quickest way to get to the airport." -"Jackson Boulevard can be as fast." Jason is very energetic. Sonia isn't as/so energetic. Thank you once again!!

Hello kelly,

Yes, you can leave out the second 'as' phrase. Your two sentences are correct. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

kelly s. 提交于 周四, 07/09/2017 - 21:45

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Hello!! I would like to ask about a structure with "as" in comparison. It is correct to say the following: -"I thought Route 6 was the quickest way to get to the airport." -"Jackson Boulevard can be just as fast." Obviously, the second "as" is missing because it is implied: "It can be just as fast as Route 6." How about using the same structure with the second "as" missing with negative sentences that include modifiers "half, quite, nearly, anything like, anywhere near, nothing like, nowhere near"? Eg. Jason is very energetic. Sonia isn't half/quite/nearly as energetic. Her brother is very tall. She's nothing like as tall/nowhere near as tall. Your dress is great. Her dress isn't anything like/ anywhere near as great. Thank you so much!! Kelly

Hello kelly s,

In answer to your questions:

It is correct to say the following:
-"I thought Route 6 was the quickest way to get to the airport."
-"Jackson Boulevard can be just as fast."
Obviously, the second "as" is missing because it is implied: "It can be just as fast as Route 6."

Yes, that is fine. The second 'as' is implied, as you say.

 

How about using the same structure with the second "as" missing with negative sentences that include modifiers "half, quite, nearly, anything like, anywhere near, nothing like, nowhere near"?

Eg. Jason is very energetic. Sonia isn't half/quite/nearly as energetic.

Her brother is very tall. She's nothing like as tall/nowhere near as tall.

Your dress is great. Her dress isn't anything like/ anywhere near as great.

Those are also all correct. Well done! We can omit the second part of the comparison when it is clear from the context.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sowmya Navada 提交于 周五, 25/08/2017 - 19:26

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Hello, I just wanted to know about comparative and superlative form of the word kind.. Is it kinder and kindest or more kind and most kind...

Hello Sowmya Navada,

'Kind' is unusual in that it is a one-syllable word and so 'kinder' and 'kindest' would be expected. These are the most common forms but the forms with 'more' and 'most' are also used, particularly in slightly more formal written language.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Timothy555 提交于 周二, 15/08/2017 - 12:08

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Hi, I would like to know if comparative adjectives can be used to compare the differences between two or more nouns? Also, since superlative adjectives convey the idea of "most", can it be used with plural nouns such as "the smartest students" or the "the most beautiful people" etc instead of simply "the smartest boy (singular noun)"? I am asking this because the use of superlatives to convey the idea of "most" also seems to suggest that the noun being referred to is unique and single in that aspect; however I've certainly seen cases such as "the smartest students" - in this case, am i referring to perhaps out of a group of 100 students, for instance, john, marry and elsa are the smartest students (i.e. "the smartest" refers to this group of 3 students out of the entire cohort of 100 students?) Regards, Tim

Kirk 提交于 周二, 15/08/2017 - 15:03

Timothy555 回复

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Hello Tim,

To answer your second question first, yes, superlatives can and are used in the way you describe. It's completely correct to do so.

As for your first question, comparative adjectives can be used to compare different plural nouns, e.g. 'The red roses are smaller than the yellow or pink ones'. If that's not what you had in mind, please provide a specific example.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I need to know what is the difference between high, long and tall?

Hello Adels,

I'd suggest you look up these words in the dictionary to begin with; this article might also be helpful. Then if you have a more specific question, please feel free to ask us.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team