Forming Comparatives and Superlatives from Adjectives (Grammar Lesson)

The Quick Answer
The 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 Adjectives

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

Comparatives of Adjectives

Here 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 Adjectives

Here 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 Adjectives

The 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
stronger
add est
strongest
One Syllable Ending Vowel Consonant big
thin
double consonant and add er
bigger
thinner
double consonant and add est
biggest
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

See Also

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