Parts of Speech
1.4D
Comparative and Superlative

General Rule:

Adverbs and adjectives often have forms which indicate degrees of comparison. The positive form, the type we have already looked at, does not express comparison.

Examples:

    They chose a dark brown paint. (adjective)
    The dancer moved gracefully.   (adverb)
The Comparative Form

The comparative form, which is made be adding -er or a preceding more to the positive form, shows either a greater degree than the positive form or a makes a comparison between two persons or things.

Examples:

    They chose a darker brown paint than their neighbours.
    The dancer moved more gracefully than the actor.
The Superlative Form

The superlative form, which is made by adding -est or a preceding most to the positive form, shows the greatest degree of a quality or quantity among three or more persons or things.

Examples:

    They chose the darkest brown they could find.
    The dancer moved the most gracefully of all the performers.
Forming the Comparative or Superlative

Choosing between the suffix -er or -est and the preceding more/most depends on the number of syllables in the positive form of the adjective or adverb. Usually, adjectives and adverbs of one syllable take the suffix (-er/-est) and those of more than one syllable take the preceding more/most. Sometimes adjectives with a second syllable which is not very distinct, take the suffix. (e.g., pretty, prettier, prettiest)

Positive

Comparative

Superlative

big

bigger

biggest

lousy

lousier

lousiest

merciful

more merciful

most merciful

quiet

more quiet or quieter

most quiet or quietest

astounding

more astounding

most astounding

Tip:

The best way to be certain whether the comparative and superlative forms of a particular adjective or adverb are formed by the -er/-est endings or by the words more/most is to consult a college dictionary. If there are no comparative and superlative forms listed with the endings, then that word takes more/most.


Some comparatives and superlatives have irregular forms:

Positive

Comparative

Superlative

Adjectives:

   

good

better

best

well

better

best

bad

worse

worst

far

farther/further

farthest/furthest

little

less

least

many

more

most

much

more

most

some

more

most

Adverbs:

   

badly

worse

worst

ill

worse

worst

well

better

best

Tip #2:

Be careful not to create a double comparative or superlative.

Examples:

    Adjective - comparative:
    incorrect - Today is more colder than yesterday.
    correct   - Today is colder than yesterday.
    (The day can be either colder or not, it cannot be more colder.)

    Adverb - superlative:
    incorrect - She is the most fastest runner.
    correct   - She is the fastest runner.
    (She is either the fastest runner or she is not, she cannot be the most fastest.)

Some adjectives and adverbs do not have comparatives or superlatives because they are already absolute in meaning:

Examples:   unique, Roman, dead, favorite, empty.

    incorrect: The tour guide was very French.
    The tour guide has to be either a French person or not,
    so cannot be described as "very" French.

    incorrect: The antique was the most unique.
    Unique means one of a kind. Something cannot be more one of a
    kind than it already is.

    incorrect: This is my most favourite toy.
    Again, favourite means something you like above all others.
    If it is your favourite, how can it be any more so than it already is?


Comparative and Superlative

Change the following adjective/advert into its comparative or superlative form. If your response shows as "Incorrect" in the status bar, the correct answer will appear in the blank.

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Copyright © 1998
English Department
University of Calgary

Last updated: July 26 1999