Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

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Forming Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

An adjective can be in one of the following three degrees.
  • The positive degree.

    For example:
    • small, happy, wide, beautiful
Read more about the positive degree.
  • The comparative degree.

    For example:
    • smaller, happier, wider, more beautiful
Read more about comparative adjectives.
  • The superlative degree.

    For example:
    • smallest, happiest, widest, most beautiful
Read more about superlative adjectives.

comparatives and superlatives of adjectives

Are You Good at Forming Comparative and Superlative Adjectives?

Here's a quick test. (Hint: Check whether you're looking for the comparative degree or the superlative degree before clicking.)
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What Is a Comparative Adjective?

Words like "prettier" and "richer" (formed from the adjectives "pretty" and "rich") are known as comparative adjectives. A comparative adjective 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" is a comparative adjective. "High" is the positive (or normal) degree.)
  • The male fish is more beautiful than the female.
  • ("More beautiful" is a comparative adjective. "Beautiful" is the positive degree.)
What Is a Superlative Adjective?

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" is a superlative adjective. "Wonderful" is the positive degree.)
  • Adam is good, but Simon is the best.
  • ("Best" is a superlative adjective. "Good" is the positive degree.)
Read more about the three degrees of adjectives.

More Examples of Comparative Adjectives

Here are some more examples of comparative 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")

More Examples of Superlative Adjectives

Here are some more examples of superlative 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 Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

The table below shows the rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives:
Type of AdjectiveExample in the Positive DegreeHow to Form the Comparative DegreeHow to Form the Superlative Degree
one syllable
  • strong
  • add er
  • stronger
  • add est
  • strongest
  • one syllable ending vowel consonant
  • thin
  • double consonant and add er
  • thinner
  • double consonant and add est
  • thinnest
  • more than one syllable
  • famous
  • add less or more
  • more famous
  • add most or least
  • least famous
  • more than one syllable ending y
  • silly
  • remove y add ier
  • sillier

  • for less
  • less silly
  • remove y add iest
  • silliest

  • for least
    least silly
    irregular
  • bad
  • good
  • many
  • no rules
  • worse
  • better
  • more
  • no rules
  • worst
  • best
  • most
  • Only Do It Once!

    When forming a comparative adjective or a superlative adjective, be careful not to create 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.
    Here is another example:
    • 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.
    Another example:
    • He was the most quickest in the trials.
    • He was the 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?)
    Read more about this point on the page about "degree." (See Issue 3 at the bottom.)
    Interactive Exercise
    Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

    See Also

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