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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.

Thoughts, Comments, Questions?

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    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 4 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 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Micheal 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      RC REDDY 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      xxmexx 5 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 6 years ago

      thank you Robin

    • profile image

      willian a silva 6 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.

    • profile image

      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 7 years ago

      hi tnx for the knowledge

    • profile image

      fakiha 7 years ago

      it`s great.i enjoyed a lot

    • profile image

      Ivan 7 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 8 years ago

      thanx a million my problem was solved

    • profile image

      Al Kaabi 8 years ago

      Hey thank for this

    • profile image

      beboy 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      mays 8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Umpa-lumpa 8 years ago

      good

    • profile image

      violeta. 8 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

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