Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

by Craig Shrives

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What Are Comparative and Superlative Adjectives?

A comparative adjective compares two things:
  • Jack is taller than Janet.
  • ("Taller" is an example of a comparative adjective.)
A superlative adjective compares three or more things:
  • Jack is tallest in the class.
  • ("Tallest" is an example of a superlative adjective.)
comparative and superlative adjectives

More about Comparative Adjectives

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 the comparative adjective from "high." "High" is the normal adjective. The normal adjective is said to be in the positive degree. The comparative adjective is said to be in the comparative degree.)
  • The male fish is more beautiful than the female.
  • ("More beautiful" is the comparative adjective from "beautiful." "Beautiful" is the positive degree. "More beautiful" is the comparative degree.)
Remember that comparative adjectives compare two things.

More about Superlative Adjectives

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 the superlative adjective from "wonderful." "Wonderful" is the positive degree. "Most wonderful" is the superlative degree.)
  • Adam and Roger are good, but Simon is the best.
  • ("Best" is the superlative adjective from "good." "Good" is the positive degree. "Best" is the superlative degree.)
Remember that superlative adjectives compare three or more things.

More Examples of Comparative Adjectives

Here are some more examples of comparative adjectives:
  • I like both horses, but Misty Blue is a stronger horse on the flat.
  • ("Stronger" is the comparative adjective from "strong.")
  • The band must be made from a more precious metal than silver.
  • ("More precious" is the comparative adjective from "precious." This compares the unknown metal with silver, so it's a comparison of two things.)
  • Peter is far clumsier.
  • ("Clumsier" is the comparative adjective from "clumsy." From this sentence, we can tell that the speaker is comparing Peter to one other person.)
  • Try this question. It is less difficult.
  • ("Less difficult" is the comparative adjective from "difficult." The speaker could have used "easier" instead of "less difficult." Both are fine, but it is a common practice to choose a word with the opposite meaning rather than use the "less" form. For example, most people would use "weaker" instead of "less strong.")

More Examples of Superlative Adjectives

Here are some more examples of superlative adjectives:
  • Geoff is now officially the strongest man in the world.
  • ("Strongest" is the superlative adjective from "strong." Note that Geoff is being compared to more than two people.)
  • The bill is extortionate, and this is the noisiest place I have ever stayed.
  • ("Noisiest" is the superlative adjective from "noisy.")
  • It is the least attractive offer, but we are obliged to take it.
  • ("Least attractive" is the superlative adjective from "attractive." From this sentence, we can tell that there were more than two offers.)
  • He ranks as one of the most silly people on the planet.
  • ("Silliest" is the superlative adjective from "silly." We will cover the rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives next.)
  • 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. (Author Mark Twain)
  • ("Ugliest" is the superlative adjective from "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
  • 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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    Beware!

    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.)

    Even More about 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.

    Read more about the three degrees of adjectives.
    Next lesson >

    See Also

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

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