Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from Adverbs (Grammar Lesson)
 
The rules for forming comparatives (e.g., better, more quickly, less efficiently) and superlatives (e.g., best, most quickly, least efficiently) from adverbs are explained below. As they are quite complicated, some people form double comparatives (e.g., more better, more quicklier) or double superlatives (e.g., bestest, most quickliest). These double forms are serious grammar errors.
 

Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from Adverbs

The rules for forming comparatives and superlatives from adverbs are varied.

Comparatives of Adverbs

Here are some examples of comparatives of adverbs:

  • The goat can see better than you think.
  • (better — comparative of well)

  • Try to paint the edges more carefully; it will save time later.
  • (more carefully — comparative of carefully)

  • He tries harder than most, but he has no aptitude for languages.
  • (harder — comparative of hard)

  • The engine operates less efficiently with alcohol.
  • (less efficiently — comparative of efficiently)

Superlatives of Adverbs

Here are some examples of superlatives of adverbs:

  • I have found that the office runs best with the radio on and the heating down.
  • (best — superlative of well)

  • The gift is most gratefully received.
  • (most gratefully: superlative of gratefully)

  • It was obvious that they were not used to high heels, but Karen moved least gracefully of all.
  • (least gracefully — superlative of gracefully)

  • She answered most abruptly .
  • (most abruptly: superlative of abruptly)
In general, comparatives and superlatives of adverbs do not cause difficulties for native English speakers. However, the mistake of using a double comparative or a double superlative is fairly common in speech. This error is more common with the comparatives and superlatives of adjectives, but is occasionally seen with adverbs too.

Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from Adverbs

The table below shows the rules for forming comparatives and superlatives from adverbs:

Type of Adverb Example of Type of Adverb How to Form the Comparative How to Form the Superlative
One Syllable
fast
hard
add er
faster
harder
add est
fastest
hardest
More Than One Syllable carefully add less or more
more carefully
add most or least
most carefully
Irregular
badly
well
no rules
worse
better
no rules
worst
best
 
WHAT IS A COMPARATIVE?

An expression like more slowly (formed from the adverb slowly) is known as a comparative. It is used to show who (or what) has performed an action in a specific manner to the greater or lesser degree. (i.e., It is used to compare two performances.)

  • Use Paul's version; he writes more diplomatically than Erika.
  • (In this example, more diplomatically compares Paul's performance with Erika's. The verb is to write.)

  • Claire dances less elegantly.
  • (In this example, less elegantly is the comparative. It compares Claire's performance with somebody else's.)

WHAT IS A SUPERLATIVE?

An expression like most carefully (formed from the adverb carefully) is known as a superlative. It is used to show who (or what) has performed an action in a specific manner to the greatest or least degree.

  • The chairman spoke most convincingly of all.
  • (most convincingly — superlative of convincingly)

  • Pete acted least sociably.
  • (least sociably — superlative of sociably)
 
 
ONLY DO IT ONCE

When forming a comparative or superlative, be careful not to use a double comparative or a double superlative.

  • Of all the fish in Europe, pike attack the most fastest.
  • (This is a double superlative. The word fastest is the superlative of fast. It is a mistake to use the word most as well.)
 

See also:

What are adverbs?
Comparatives and superlatives of adjectives
List of easily confused words