Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

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Forming 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.

comparative and superlative adverbs

Are You Good at Forming Comparative and Superlative Adverbs?

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What Is a Comparative Adverb?

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.
  • Use Paul's version; he writes more diplomatically than Erika.
  • (In this example, "more diplomatically" is a comparative adverb. It compares Paul's performance with Erika's. The verb is "to write.")
  • Claire dances less elegantly.
  • (Here, "less elegantly" is a comparative adverb. It compares Claire's performance with somebody else's.)
What Is a Superlative Adverb?

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 a superlative adverb. "Convincingly" is the adverb in the positive degree.)
  • Pete acted least sociably.
  • ("Least sociably" is a superlative adverb. "Sociably" is the adverb in the positive degree.)

More Examples of Comparative Adverbs

Here are some more examples of comparative adverbs:
  • The goat can see better than you think.
  • ("better" — comparative of "well")
  • Try to paint the edges more carefully; it will save time later.
  • ("more carefully" — comparative of "carefully")
  • He tries harder than most, but he has no aptitude for languages.
  • ("harder" — comparative of "hard")
  • The engine operates less efficiently with alcohol.
  • ("less efficiently" — comparative of "efficiently")

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" — superlative of "well")
  • The gift is most gratefully received.
  • ("most gratefully" — superlative of "gratefully")
  • It was obvious that they were not used to high heels, but Karen moved least gracefully of all.
  • ("least gracefully" — superlative of "gracefully")
  • She answered most abruptly .
  • ("most abruptly": superlative of "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
  • 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.)
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    See Also

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