Challenging Comparisons

May 22, 2021

Challenge 1: Irregular Adjectives and Adverbs

Some frequently used adjectives and adverbs form comparative and superlative forms in irregular ways.

goodbetterbest
badworseworst
wellbetterbest
muchmoremost
manymoremost
somemoremost

Challenge 2: Multiple Meaning Modifiers

Some positive forms have multiple meanings, and each meaning has different, irregular comparative and superlative forms.

little (size)littlerlittlest
little (amount)lessleast
late (time)laterlatest
late (order)latterlast
old (age)olderoldest
old (order)eldereldest
far (distance)fartherfarthest
far (progress)furtherfurthest

Littler/less

Littler (size): My cat is little, your cat is littler, but his is the littlest.
Less (amount): I only have a little money, you have less than I do, but he has the least money.

Later/latter

Later (time): Sarah was late, Michael was later, but Shelly was latest.

Latter (sequence):

I told the secret to Jeremy and Eric, but the latter told Kyle. (The latter is Eric because he is the second in the list)
I told the secret to Jeremy, Eric, and Kyle, and the last told Mom. (The last is Kyle because he is the last in the list.)

Older/elder

Older (age): My father is old, my grandfather is older, but my great-grandfather is oldest.
Elder (sequence): Of the two brothers, Mark is the elder. Of the four sisters, Mollie is the eldest.

Farther/further

Farther (distance): John threw the ball far, Shannon threw the ball farther, and Lonnie threw the ball the farthest.
Further (progress): I have gotten far in my new book, Lydia is further in her book, but Michael is the furthest.

Challenge 3: Absolutes

Absolutes don’t have a comparative or superlative form because they can’t be any more than they already are. Absolutes include:

bestworstfirstlastonlypregnant
deaduniqueperfectstraightroundsquare

You can’t have something that is better than the best or worse than the worst.
You can’t be more dead or more pregnant. (Either you are or you aren’t.)
Something can’t be more straight or more round. (Either it is straight or it isn’t.)

Hint:Absolutes are often superlatives themselves (best, worst)


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