Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

by Craig Shrives

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?

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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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 Adverb Example Forming the Comparative Forming the Superlative
One Syllable
fast
hard
add er
faster
harder
add est
fastest
hardest
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.)
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 adverbs? Comparatives and superlatives of adjectives List of easily confused words