Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

by Craig Shrives

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What Are Comparative and Superlative Adverbs?

A comparative adverb is used to compare two actions or performances:
  • Simon walks faster than Toby.
  • ("Faster" is an example of a comparative adverb.)
A superlative adverb is used to compare three or more actions or performances:
  • Simon thinks most diligently in the team.
  • ("Most diligently" is an example of a superlative adverb.)
comparative and superlative adverbs

More about Comparative Adverbs

An expression like "more slowly" (formed from the adverb "slowly") is known as a comparative adverb. It is used to show who (or what) has performed an action in a specific manner to the greater or lesser degree. In other words, it is used to compare two performances.
  • Paul writes more diplomatically than Erika.
  • ("More diplomatically" is the comparative adverb from "diplomatically." "Diplomatically" is the normal adverb. The normal adverb is said to be in the positive degree. The comparative adverb is said to be in the comparative degree.)
  • Claire dances less elegantly.
  • ("Less elegantly" is the comparative adverb from "elegantly." "Elegantly" is the positive degree. "Less elegantly" is the comparative degree.)

More about Superlative Adverbs

An expression like "most carefully" (formed from the adverb "carefully") is known as a superlative adverb. 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" is the superlative adverb from "convincingly." "Convincingly" is the positive degree. "Most convincingly" is the superlative degree.)
  • Pete acted least sociably.
  • ("Least sociably" is the superlative adverb from "sociably." "Sociably" is the positive degree. "Least sociably" is the superlative degree.)

More Examples of Comparative Adverbs

Here are some more examples of comparative adverbs:
  • The goat can see better than you think.
  • ("Better" is the comparative adverb from "well." Remember that a comparative adverb compares two performances. In this example, it is a comparison of how well the goat can see and how well you think the goat can see.)
  • Try to paint the edges more carefully. It will save time later.
  • ("More carefully" is the comparative adverb from "carefully." This is also a comparison of two performances. It compares how the edges are currently being painted with how they will be painted with more effort.)
  • John tries harder than most in the class, but he has no aptitude for languages.
  • ("Harder" is the comparative adverb from "hard." This compares John's effort with most other student's efforts.)
  • The engine operates less efficiently with alcohol.
  • ("Less efficiently"is the comparative adverb from "efficiently." This is a comparison of the engine's performance with alcohol and the engine's performance with some other fuel.)

More Examples of Superlative Adverbs

Here are some more examples of superlative adverbs:
  • I have found that the office runs best with the radio on and the heating down.
  • ("Best" is the superlative adverb from "well.")
  • The gift is most gratefully received.
  • ("Most gratefully" is the superlative adverb from "gratefully.")
  • It was obvious that they were not used to high heels, but Karen moved least gracefully of all.
  • ("Least gracefully" is the superlative adverb from "gracefully.")
  • She answered most abruptly .
  • ("Most abruptly" is the superlative adverb from "abruptly.")

Forming Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

The table below shows the rules for forming comparative and superlative adverbs:
Type of AdverbExample in the Positive DegreeHow to Form the ComparativeHow to Form the Superlative
one syllable
  • fast
  • add er
  • faster
  • add est
  • fastest
  • 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
  • Are You Good at Forming Comparative and Superlative Adverbs?

    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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    Only Do It Once!

    In general, comparative and superlative 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 comparative and superlative adjectives, but is occasionally seen with adverbs too. For example:
    • Of all the fish in Europe, pike attack the most fastest.
    • (This is a double superlative. The word "fastest" is the superlative adverb from "fast." It is a mistake to use the word "most" as well.)

    Even More about Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

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

      For example:
      • widely, beautifully, well, hard
    Read more about the positive degree.
    • The comparative degree.

      For example:
      • more widely, more beautifully, better, harder
    Read more about comparative adverbs.
    • The superlative degree.

      For example:
      • most widely, most beautifully, best, hardest
    Read more about superlative adverbs.

    Next lesson >

    See Also

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

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