Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

by Craig Shrives

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?

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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 Adjective Example Forming the Comparative Forming 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

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