Comparative - adjectives
Comparative is the name for the grammar used when comparing two people, things, places, etc. The first basic way to compare is using than:
- This computer is better than that one.
- She's stronger at chess than I am.
- It's much colder today than it was yesterday.
- Our car is bigger than your car.
- This grammar topic is easier than most others.
- I find science more difficult than mathematics.
- Today's ESL lesson was more interesting than usual.
The second basic way is to use as .. as:
- She's twice as old as her sister.
- He's not as stupid as he looks!
- I'm almost as good in mathematics as in science.
- This book is not as exciting as the last one.
- The cafeteria is not as crowded as usual.
- Russian is not quite as difficult as Chinese.
When comparing with as .. as, the adjective does not change. When comparing with than, however, some changes are necessary. This depends on the number of syllables the adjective has:
Rule: 1-syllable adjectives: Add -er to the adjective
- My sister is much taller than me.†
- It's colder today than it was yesterday.
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.
Rule: 2-syllable adjectives ending in -y : Change the -y to -ier
- She's looking happier today.
- This grammar topic is easier than the last one.
- Why is everyone else luckier than me?
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.
Rule: Other 2-syllable adjectives: Use more with the unchanged adjective
- The shops are always more crowded just before Christmas.
- Is there anything more boring than reading about grammar?
- My sister is more careful with her writing than I am with mine.
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.
Rule: Adjectives with 3 or more syllables: Use more with the unchanged adjective
- Russian grammar is more difficult than English grammar.
- My sister is much more intelligent than me.†
- I find mathematics lessons more enjoyable than science lessons.
- The older you get, the more irritating you become.
Superlative - adjectives
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:
Rule: 1-syllable adjectives: Add -est to the adjective (plus the )
- My sister is the tallest in our family.
- Yesterday was the coldest day of the year so far.
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.
Rule: 2-syllable adjectives ending in -y : Change the -y to -iest (plus the )
- The richest people are not always the happiest.
- Which do you think is the easiest language to learn?
- She's the luckiest person I know.
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 ).
Rule: Other 2-syllable adjectives: Use 'the most' with the unchanged adjective
- The most boring thing about ESL class is doing grammar exercises.
- My sister is the most careful person I know.
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.
Rule: Adjectives with 3 or more syllables: Use 'the most' with the unchanged adjective
- Some people think that Russian is the most difficult language.
- Albert Einstein was the most intelligent person in history.
- My most enjoyable class is English.
- You are the most irritating person I have ever met!
Following are two common irregular comparative/superlative forms:
- good-better-the best
- bad-worse-the worst
Comparative and superlative - adverbs
The following guidelines apply to the comparative/superlative of most adverbs:
Rule: 1-syllable adverbs: Add -er/-est
- I can run faster than you. / I can run the fastest in my class.
- She works harder than me.† / She works the hardest of all students.
Rule: Other adverbs: Use 'more / the most' *
- She ran more quickly than me.† / Of all the students she ran the most quickly.
* In informal English it is common to hear the adjectival comparative and superlative forms of two-syllable adverbs. For example: She ran quicker than me.† and She ran the quickest.
† Many educated English speakers prefer to use the nominative plus a verb rather than the accusative in comparative sentences, especially in formal situations. They say, for example, My sister is taller than I am. or She doesn't play chess as well as I do. They dislike My sister is taller than me and She doesn't play chess as well as me
The alternative, omitting the verb as in the following examples, is considered to be even more formal. This usage is avoided by most British English speakers: My sister is taller than I or She doesn't play chess as well as I.
There are several interactive quizzes on this topic in the Other Grammar: Comparatives drop-down menu on the Grammar index.