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Comparison of Adjectives

Updated on June 29, 2014

Using adjectives to compare

In this lesson on adjectives, we take a look at how to go about using adjectives to compare and how the comparisons of adjectives are formed.

Adjectives are dynamic in the sense that they keep changing their forms depending on how they are used. An adjective will change its form according to the degree of comparison in which it is used in a sentence. Adjectives in the English language can undergo three degrees of comparisons – namely:

  1. Positive degree
  2. Comparative degree
  3. Superlative degree


What is the positive degree of an adjective?

The positive degree of an adjective is an adjective that is in its ordinary form that hasn’t undergone a change of form or has not been used in comparing two or more things. This form of the adjective describes a noun or pronoun without comparing that noun or pronoun with anything of its kind. The positive form of an adjective can also be called the dictionary form of the adjective because it is the form that you find in the dictionary. Examples of the positive degree of an adjective are: tall, short, strong, long, fat, ugly, handsome, stingy, small, etc.

NOTE: The positive form of an adjective can also be called the absolute form.


What is the comparative degree?

The comparative form of an adjective is that form which is used when two things are being compared with each other in respect of a certain quality. For example: the adjective ‘taller’ is in its comparative form simply because we can use it in comparing two people or things in respect of their height.

John is taller than Robert.

You see that in the example above, we have used the adjective “taller” to compare the heights of two people.

Other examples include: shorter, fatter, stronger, more beautiful, more handsome, stingier, whiter, etc.


What is the superlative degree of an adjective?

The superlative form of an adjective is that form of the adjective that is used in comparing three or more persons or things in respect of a particular quality. The superlative form is used to show the highest degree of quality among three or more things. For example, the adjective “strongest” is in its superlative form simply because we use it to show the highest degree of a particular quality among three or more people or things.

Janet is the strongest girl in the class.

From the example above, we see that the adjective “strongest” was used in comparing the strength of all the girls in a particular class and it showed us that a particular person (Janet) had the highest degree of strength.

Other examples of the superlative forms of adjectives are: shortest, wisest, most beautiful, most handsome, ugliest, fattest, tallest, smallest, most important, best, etc.


How the comparison of adjectives are formed

There are certain rules that govern the formation of the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.

There are two ways we can achieve the comparison of adjectives. We can either add –er or –est to the positive form of the adjective in order to form the comparative or superlative forms respectively.

Example: The comparative for “short” will be “shorter” and the superlative will be “shortest”.

We can also add more or most to form the comparative and superlative of other adjectives. Here, to form the comparative, we simply place the word “more” before the positive form of the adjective. In forming the superlative, we place the word “most” in front of the positive form of the adjective.

Example: the comparative for “beautiful” will be “more beautiful” and the superlative will be “most beautiful”


The rules in using adjectives to compare


Rule 1

  • Adjectives that are made up of one or two syllable take –er in their comparative form and –est in their superlative form.

Examples:

Short ------- Shorter ------ Shortest

Tall --------Taller -------- Tallest

Fat -------- Fatter -------- Fattest

Small ------ Smaller ------ Smallest

Clever ------- Cleverer ------- Cleverest


Rule 2

  • For adjectives that end in “y”, we get rid of the “y” they end with and replace it with –ier for the comparative form and –iest for the superlative form. Here, we totally disregard the amount of syllables that the adjective is made up of.

Examples:

Happy ------ Happier ------- Happiest

Windy ------ Windier ------ Windiest

Hungry ----- Hungrier ------ Hungriest

Lucky ------ Luckier -------- Luckiest

Filthy ------- Filthier ------- Filthiest

Sandy ------ Sandier ------ Sandiest

Sticky ------- Stickier ------- Stickiest

Easy -------- Easier ------- Easiest


Rule 3

If the adjective is made up of two or more syllables, then we add more or most to the comparative and superlative forms respectively.

Examples:

Careful -------- more careful ------ most careful

Handsome -------- more handsome ------- most handsome

Beautiful --------- more beautiful -------- most beautiful

Active -------- more active --------- most active

Useless -------- more useless -------- most useless

NOTE: Adjectives with two syllables can have their comparative and superlative forms being formed in two ways. We can either add more or most in front of their comparative and superlative forms or we can just add –er or –est at the end of their comparative and superlative forms respectively.

For example, the adjective “feeble” can have its comparative form being feebler/more feeble. It can also have its superlative form being feeblest/most feeble.

  • Some adjectives have comparative and superlative forms that are irregular. These adjectives do not form their comparative and superlative forms by adding –er/more or –est/most to their positive forms.

Examples of irregular adjectives are:

bad ---- worse ------ worst

good ---- better ---- best

little ----- less ---- least

many/much ----- more ----- most

Since these adjectives do not follow the normal pattern to get their comparative and superlative forms, we consider them irregular comparatives.

Regular and irregular comparative forms of adjectives

The regular comparative forms of adjectives are the ones that follow the normal pattern of adding –er/more and –est/most to their positive forms to get their comparative and superlative forms respectively.

The irregular comparative forms of adjectives do not behave this way.

Regular Comparatives

Positive
Comaparative
Superlative
Tall
Taller
Tallest
Strong
stronger
strongest
Cheap
cheaper
cheapest
Lucky
luckier
luckiest
Faithful
more faithful
most faithful
Nice
nicer
nicest
Angry
angrier
angriest
Significant
more significant
most significant
Comfortable
more comfortable
most comfortable
Understandable
more understandable
most understandable
Sad
sadder
saddest
Clever
cleverer/more clever
cleverest/most clever

Irregular Comparatives

Positive
Comparative
Superlative
Good
better
best
Little
less
least
Bad
worse
worst

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