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Grammar Mishaps: Adjective Degrees - Positive, Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Updated on July 25, 2013

Taylor is goofy, Georgia is goofier, but Aiden is the goofiest!

Three Degrees of Adjectives

I received another hub request on the degrees of adjectives: positive, comparative and superlative. I'll attempt to give the basic breakdown of each and how they are interrelated.

Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. They can answer, which, what kind, or how many. We can use three forms to compare adjectives: positive, comparative and superlative. We use these degrees of adjectives to show points of reference.

Positive Adjectives

Positive adjectives stand alone. They are the sole modifier of a noun or pronoun. They do not compare the noun/pronoun with any other. Even though they are called "positive" adjectives they can describe something negative.

For example:

  • Her blue hat was brilliant. (Blue is the positive adjective modifying the noun, hat.)
  • She was a smart woman. (Smart is the positive adjective modifying the noun, woman.)

Comparative Adjectives

Comparative adjectives are used when describing the differences between ONLY two items.

For example, take the two words: orangutan and rhinoceros

  • Rhinoceros is a longer word than orangutan; or
  • Orangutan is a shorter word than rhinoceros.

Comparative adjectives, used to describe only two items, can be used to describe groups of items as long as there are only two groups.

For example:

  • Their swim team was faster than our swim team.

Comparative Adjective Suffixes

With one syllable adjectives and sometimes two syllable adjectives, especially those ending in "y", we add the suffix "er". When the adjective is multi-syllabic we sometimes use the the terms "more" or "less" to describe the comparison. Never use both "er" and "more" or "less". E.g., The meal was more better than last night. This is INCORRECT.

For example:

  • big, bigger
  • happy, happier
  • obnoxious, more obnoxious
  • careful, less careful

Note:

  • When the adjective ends in "e" just add an "r". (E.g., late, later)
  • When the adjective has a consonant, vowel, consonant ending, double the ending letter and add "er". (E.g., red, redder)
  • When the adjective ends in a "y", change the "y" to "i" and add "er". (E.g., early, earlier)

Remember: There are always irregular forms that don't follow these rules. E.g., good, better; bad, worse; little, less.

Superlative Adjectives

Superlative adjectives are used when describing three items or more. Superlative adjectives are never used with two items. They are used to express the highest degree of the item you are expressing in comparison to the other items. They are the most extreme in the group of items.

For example, take the three words: orangutan, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus

  • Hippopotamus is the longest word; or
  • Orangutan is the shortest word.

Superlative Adjective Suffixes

With one syllable adjectives and sometimes two syllable adjectives, especially those ending in "y", we add the suffix "est". When the adjective is multi-syllabic we sometimes use the the terms "most" or "least" to describe the comparison. Never use both "est" and "most" or "least".

For example:

  • big, bigger, biggest
  • happy, happier, happiest
  • obnoxious, more obnoxious, most obnoxious
  • careful, less careful, least careful

Note:

  • When the adjective ends in "e" just add an "st". (E.g., late, later, latest)
  • When the adjective has a consonant, vowel, consonant ending, double the ending letter and add "est". (E.g., red, redder, reddest)
  • When the adjective ends in a "y", change the "y" to "i" and add "est". (E.g., early, earlier, earliest)

Again, remember: There are always irregular forms that don't follow these rules. E.g., good, better, best; bad, worse, worst; little, less, least.

Questions & Answers

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      • Bedbugabscond profile image

        Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

        I always have a difficult time remembering the three types of adjectives and how they are modified! The way you state it in this hub is easy to understand and remember!

      • profile image

        vanz 5 years ago

        what is the comparative degree for many?

      • profile image

        jeraldine 5 years ago

        what is positive,comparative and superlative degree of the word in and out.

      • profile image

        Francis 5 years ago

        What is the positive, comparative and superlative degree of the word in and out

      • profile image

        maria pamela v. devillena 5 years ago

        oh my god this is great

      • profile image

        Sham 5 years ago

        Got my answers !!!!!!

      • profile image

        sarah 5 years ago

        This is great thank you

      • profile image

        kim, 5 years ago

        thank's sa sagot now i know

      • profile image

        CathErine LoPez 5 years ago

        ...thanks for the info about the adjectives!!... this was helpful :-)

      • profile image

        Mike 5 years ago

        This was nice! keep it up.

      • profile image

        xyna mae cute 5 years ago

        thanks for your examples

      • profile image

        taewoo 5 years ago

        this is awesome it helps me a lot

      • profile image

        jaceen 5 years ago

        it's less than twenty miles to dallas

      • profile image

        D. R. K. Sarma 5 years ago

        Is it correct if I say more noisy and most noisy. can`t we say noise-noiser-noisest which I think does n`t exist.Please clarify.

      • profile image

        justin 5 years ago

        i can make my assignment because of this...

        this is really fan..

      • profile image

        maryrosechathaiaz 5 years ago

        its was so great to have my assignment....thanks for the info..;)

      • profile image

        Jennychuk 5 years ago

        You have made my day, it was fantastic you have refresh my memory and help me in my teaching work.

      • profile image

        Maaz khan 5 years ago

        please tell me the comparative and super degrees of :) safe, unjust, gay. And numerous

      • profile image

        padhu 5 years ago

        Thanks for the infos :)

      • profile image

        Ram 5 years ago

        This site is very useful to learn english.

      • profile image

        nounoo 5 years ago

        what u do is great.It helps me improving my english.but what about gentle and auther similar adjectives?

      • profile image

        lea angelie silva 5 years ago

        oh...... it helps me to answer my assignments thanks!!!!!!!!!!!

      • profile image

        olivelaurel 5 years ago

        i love english subject.........

      • profile image

        NUR-----AIN BTE LASA 5 years ago

        NOW,I NOW WHAT IS THE POSITIVE COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE .THANKS FOREVER..................

      • profile image

        aarya khanal 6 years ago

        very nice well done................

      • profile image

        Micheal 6 years ago

        Is it correct to use the words extreme and end together in a sentence?

      • profile image

        RC REDDY 6 years ago

        I've been searching for comparitive form of the adjective"super"

      • profile image

        xxmexx 6 years ago

        now i can recite in front of the class

      • profile image

        vvvv 6 years ago

        what are the comparative and superlative of up and late

      • profile image

        Shreevathsa 6 years ago

        Hi Robbin:)what is the comparative and superlative degrees of the word "less"...

      • profile image

        steph 6 years ago

        use among, in the or of the when constructing superlative adjectives like for instance: Jimmy is lucky. HIs brother Danny is luckier. The luckiest of the family is Jenny.

      • profile image

        Ahmad 6 years ago

        really helpful, thanks

      • profile image

        ygoygoy 6 years ago

        ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. now i understood

      • profile image

        rimshah 6 years ago

        i was quiet confused but now em relax...........

      • profile image

        Lord Voldemort 6 years ago

        Hey, thanks for that! I couldn't for the life of me remember what positive, comparitive and superlative adjectives were ... and I have an exam next week ...

        I mean, I can use grammar perfectly in my writing, but sometimes the names people use for things are confusing - I think, yes, I can use that, and then - wait ... what?

        So, thanks a lot! :)

      • profile image

        lady asha 6 years ago

        thanks here i got the wrong answer :-(

      • profile image

        farah 6 years ago

        very few animals are as useful as th cow

        [comparative sentence and superlative degrees]

      • profile image

        who i m 6 years ago

        thanks now i m become a top in my classroom yeheyyyyy

      • profile image

        jabbawockeez 6 years ago

        thanks to this info.because of this a have a highest score in english!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • profile image

        jesri 7 years ago

        thank you Robin

      • profile image

        willian a silva 7 years ago

        thanks. you helped so many.

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        catnanny 7 years ago

        Actually the problem with comparatives and superlatives is about those special adjectives like pleasant, common, stupid, timid, handsome and some others which are not supposed to be formed with 'er' or 'est' but with 'more' and 'most'.But they are common now with 'er' and 'est' Moreover you can find ( and I did some time ago) in the same book, 'simpler' and 'more simple' just one page further. The same author can use both forms (not at the same time of course, not 'more simpler'). So, it means that both are correct. As to 'pleasanter'and 'pleasantest', I don't think that these are correct but you'll certainly come across them more and more often.

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        Noslen De Guzman 7 years ago

        help me for my assignment here my assignment Complete The Chart by Supplying the missing from of the adjectives here is given. POSITIVE (GREAT)>> 1.studious _____ Comperative>> (GREATER) ______ Superlative>> Greatest _____ what is the answer????

      • profile image

        catherine 8 years ago

        hi tnx for the knowledge

      • profile image

        fakiha 8 years ago

        it`s great.i enjoyed a lot

      • profile image

        Ivan 8 years ago

        I want to find appositive

      • profile image

        Elizabeth  8 years ago

        Thank you, this was awesome and helped me!

      • profile image

        Chell 8 years ago

        thanks for this info! im doing this kind of stuff for some homework! im homeschooled...but i still get together with a group and studdy this stuff!!!

      • profile image

        alexandra 8 years ago

        what is the comparative and superlative of bady??? i'm soooo confused...?

      • profile image

        lilen 8 years ago

        it was very helpful to especially to me because i'm a graduating highschool student.Thanks!

      • profile image

        hamid - kabul 8 years ago

        hi, it was very good

      • Teeny Tots profile image

        Teeny Tots 8 years ago from USA

        Wow! woooooooo

        Thanks for your Education. I will learn more from your hubs.

      • profile image

        brishna 9 years ago

        thanx a million my problem was solved

      • profile image

        Al Kaabi 9 years ago

        Hey thank for this

      • profile image

        beboy 9 years ago

        what are the part of adjective pls.,tell me the meaning plss. support me ^_^

      • profile image

        mays 9 years ago

        is this right (feeling adjectives usually go before fact adjevtives)please if anyone know tell me an example

      • profile image

        Umpa-lumpa 9 years ago

        good

      • profile image

        violeta. 9 years ago

        thanks for help us. I am not native speaker English.I speak spanish and it is hard for me two find the differece when to use less and when to use lesser. Also I want to ask you if is correct to use -most litlle- instead of my sister is smaller than you.

        Thanks a lot . Was so nice to find you www page.

      • profile image

        Ross 9 years ago

        what is the comparative for super

      • profile image

        asia 9 years ago

        Cool

      • profile image

        mary 9 years ago

        tahank you

      • profile image

        Jo 9 years ago

        Hi Robin,

        Are these sentences correct?

        Which of these two sports involves the highest risk: snowboarding or surfing?

        Which of these two skills is the easiest to learn: ice-skating or roller blading?

        If they are or aren't correct can you please explain why?

        Thank you.

      • profile image

        froilan 9 years ago

        thank you for your support

      • profile image

        Vivian Marti 9 years ago

        Need to know how to use worse v. worst. What is the difference? Pls advise. Thank you.

      • profile image

        angel 9 years ago

        hey thanks for this

      • profile image

        Leon 9 years ago

        Thanks for the help. My sister was just doing her homework, which involved comparative and superlative adjectives, and we were searching all over the Web 'till we got to your page. Thanks!

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Hi Hannah,

        Mary is bad at basketball. (Bad is the positive adjective)

        Lynn is worse at basketball than Mary. (Worse is the comparitive form of the adjective bad)

        Kim is the worst at basketball. (Worst is the superlative form of the adjective bad)

        bad, worse, worst

        Thanks for the question!

      • profile image

        Hannah 10 years ago

        What is the positive and comparative of worst?

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Hi Carlos,

        It is correct to say, "bluer" and "smarter".  Both words, "blue" and "smart", are one syllable and just require the "er" ending.  Thanks for the comment!

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Hi Karen,

        Yes, It is correct to say, "She is one of the better..." to mean one of a possible few that are better in a group.  If you were to say, "She was the better speaker," then you would be speaking of only one person being better.  Great point!

      • profile image

        Carlos 10 years ago

        How come then I hear bluer instead of more blue or more smart instead of smarter?

      • profile image

        karen FrosK 10 years ago

        When one says: She was one of the better speakers at the conference, does this mean that there are only two speakers at the conference? I believe that this use is becoming common though incorrect to mean "one of the best." Am I right?

      • gredmondson profile image

        gredmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco, California

        Hi Robin,

        Thanks so much for helping the world with grammar. Another Hub idea would be to do something on adjectives that have, by their definition, a superlative meaning. For example, "favorite" and "unique" have a superlative meaning. My female junior high students wanted to have more than one "best friend." When I told them that they coulde have only one "best" friend, they felt cheated. It didn't help much if I told them they could have all the good friends -- or wonderful friends -- that they wanted. But, then that was junior high.

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Good question. I believe it is okay to say "much better". When you describe something as "much better" you are saying that there is a large value gap between what your are describing. Thanks for reading!

      • profile image

        laim 10 years ago

        can you say much better

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        I greatly appreciate the comment, Oneal 1122! ;)

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks, Tom. Good question. In this sentence brilliant was meant as wonderful, modifying the noun hat. Blue is also an adjective modifying the noun, hat. I appreciate the vote of confidence. ;)

      • profile image

        oneal1122 10 years ago

        Thanks Robin. Your hubs serve as a great refresher course for grammar writing.

      • misfit profile image

        misfit 10 years ago from England

        I haven't real training in English

        So I wish that my teacher'd been you.

        But please won't you answer this question -

        Is it 'hat' which is brilliant, or 'blue'?

        I do appreciate the free tuition. Tom.

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Ha, Jaym. xo

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks, Jack. Unfortunately, I can only claim the one on the right. ;)

      • jmuriset profile image

        jmuriset 10 years ago from Claremont

        I love that photo!! Oh, and the hub is great, too. :) We all could have skipped grades K-6, if only we had had your grammar hubs! Wait, did I say that right? I mean, correctly? Correct? Oh forget it.

      • jstankevicz profile image

        jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

        Glad you included the picture to help me smile, ‘cause the topic made my head hurt. You have three adorable models that demonstrate adjectives brilliantly!

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Funny! I think native speakers take a lot of English usage for granted. We just say what sounds right; most of the time we're correct. Thanks! ;)

      • glassvisage profile image

        glassvisage 10 years ago from Northern California

        I've forgotten all about the different kinds of adjectives and I had to click just to remember what the heck they were :P

      • Robin profile image
        Author

        Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks, Davinne. In the beginning I didn't intend to create so many grammar hubs; it has just happened. I keep getting more requests; it's hard to keep up. Thanks for reading!;)

      • Davinne profile image

        Davinne 10 years ago

        Kool your well educated as we could see. Thanx for sharing yourself with us