Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from Adjectives (Grammar Lesson)
The Quick AnswerThe rules for forming comparatives (e.g., better, more handsome, prettier) and superlatives (e.g., best, most handsome, prettiest) from adjectives are explained below. As they are quite complicated, some people form double comparatives (e.g., more better, more handsomer, more prettier) or double superlatives (e.g., bestest, most handsomest, most prettiest). These double forms are serious grammar errors.
Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from AdjectivesThe rules for forming comparatives and superlatives from adjectives are varied.
Comparatives of AdjectivesHere are some examples of comparatives of adjectives:
- Misty Blue is a stronger horse on the flat. (stronger — comparative of strong)
- The band must be made from a more precious metal than silver. (more precious — comparative of precious)
- Peter is far clumsier. (clumsier — comparative of clumsy)
- Try this question. It is less difficult. (Less difficult is a comparative of difficult. However, it is common practice to choose a word with the opposite meaning rather than use the less form; for example, use easier instead of less difficult, and use weaker instead of less strong.)
- The pansies here seem less dainty than the ones at home. (less dainty — comparative of dainty)
Superlatives of AdjectivesHere are some examples of superlatives of adjectives:
- Geoff is now officially the strongest man in the world. (strongest — superlative of strong)
- The bill is extortionate, and this is the noisiest place I have ever stayed. (noisiest — superlative of noisy)
- It is the least attractive offer, but we are obliged to take it. (least attractive — superlative of attractive)
- He ranks as one of the most silly people on the planet. (silliest — superlative of silly)
- Last week, I stated that this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister and now wish to withdraw that statement. (Mark Twain) (ugliest — superlative of ugly)
Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from AdjectivesThe table below shows the rules for forming comparatives and superlatives from adjectives:
|Type of Adjective||Example of Type of Adjective||How to Form the Comparative||How to Form the Superlative|
|One Syllable||strong||add er
|One Syllable Ending Vowel Consonant||big
|double consonant and add er
|double consonant and add est
|More Than One Syllable||famous||add less or more
|add most or least
|More Than One Syllable Ending y||silly||remove y add ier
|remove y add iest
WHAT IS A COMPARATIVE?Words like prettier and richer (formed from the adjectives pretty and rich) are known as comparatives. A comparative is used to show who (or what) has a quality to the greater or lesser degree. (In the first example below, the quality being compared is height.)
- You call that high? Blackpool Tower is higher. (higher — comparative of high)
- The male fish is more beautiful than the female. (more beautiful — comparative of beautiful)
WHAT IS A SUPERLATIVE?Words like prettiest and richest (formed from the adjectives pretty and rich) are known as superlatives. A superlative is used to show who (or what) has a quality to the greatest or least degree.
- It is the most wonderful chocolate fudge I have ever tasted. (most wonderful — superlative of wonderful)
- Adam is good, but Simon is the best. (best — superlative of good)
Only Do It OnceWhen forming a comparative or a superlative, be careful not to use a double comparative or a double superlative. This is a common mistake, particularly in speech.
- Ann is more prettier than Carla. (This is a double comparative. The word prettier is the comparative of pretty. It is a mistake to use the word more as well.)
- Ann is prettier than Carla.
- He was the most best player. (This is a double superlative. The word best is the superlative of good. It is a mistake to use most as well. The word 'bestest' is obviously wrong too.)
- He was the best player.
- He was most quickest in the trials.
More Single or More Dead?Arguably, there are adjectives that should not have comparative or superlative forms because their meanings already express the qualities to the highest possible degree. For example:
- Instantaneous (Can something be more instantaneous?)
- Dead (Can something be more dead?)
- Single (Can something be more single?)
- Unique (Can something be more unique?)