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Comparative/superlative

Comparative is the name for the grammar used when comparing two things. The two basic ways to compare are using as .. as or than. Examples of each are shown below:

Note: In each of the example sentences above, the comparative form of the adjective is shown. See the foot of this page for information about the comparison of adverbs.

When comparing with as .. as, the adjective does not change. When comparing with than, however, some changes are necessary, depending on the number of syllables the adjective has:

1-syllable adjectives: add -er to the adjective

Note: If the word ends: consonant-vowel-consonant, then the last consonant is usually doubled in the comparative. Examples: big-bigger, fat-fatter, hot-hotter.

2-syllable adjectives ending in -y: change the -y to -ier

Beware: Do not confuse adjectives and adverbs. 2-syllable adverbs ending in -y must be compared with the word more. Example: I drive more quickly (quicklier) than my brother.

Other 2-syllable adjectives: use more with the unchanged adjective

Note: The comparative of some shorter 2-syllable adjectives can be formed with -er. Examples: simple-simpler, clever-cleverer, narrow-narrower. To be sure which comparative method to use, you will need to consult a good dictionary.

Adjectives with 3 or more syllables: use more with the unchanged adjective


In the superlative you talk about one thing only and how it is the best, worst, etc. You do not compare two things. The following guidelines apply to the superlative:

1-syllable adjectives: add -est to the adjective (plus the)

Note: If the word ends: consonant-vowel-consonant, then the last consonant is usually doubled in the superlative. Examples: big-biggest, fat-fattest, hot-hottest.

2-syllable adjectives ending in -y: change the -y to -iest (plus the)

Beware: Do not confuse adjectives and adverbs. 2-syllable adverbs ending in -y form their superlative with the words the most. Example: Of all the people I know my father drives the most quickly (quickliest).

Other 2-syllable adjectives: use the most with the unchanged adjective

Note: The superlative of some shorter 2-syllable adjectives can be formed with -er. Examples: simple-simplest, clever-cleverest, narrow-narrowest. To be sure which superlative method to use, you will need to consult a good dictionary.

Adjectives with 3 or more syllables: use the most with the unchanged adjective

Following are two common irregular comaparative/superlative forms:


The following guidelines apply to the comparative/superlative of most adverbs:

1-syllable adverbs: add -er/-est

Other adverbs: use more / the most*

* In informal English it is common to hear the adjectival comparative/superlative form of two-syllable adverbs. For example: She ran quicker than me.† | She ran the quickest.

† Many educated English speakers prefer to use the nominative plus a verb rather than the accusative in such comparative sentences, especially in formal situations. They say, for example, My sister is taller than I am. or She ran more quickly than I did.
The alternative, omitting the verb as in the following examples, is considered to be even more formal and is avoided by most British English speakers: My sister is taller than I. or She ran more quickly than I.

Do a quiz on the comparative | superlative.


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