Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs

May 22, 2021

We often use adjectives and adverbs to compare. There are three degrees of comparison, positive (or negative), comparative, and superlative.Definition: If you are talking about only one thing, you can’t really compare, but if the word modified possesses that characteristic, it is used in the positive. If it is a negative characteristic, it is in the negative.

I am old.
You are young.

Definition: If you are comparing two things, you must use the comparative (compare) form or degree.

I am older than my brother.
You are younger than your sister.

Definition: If you are comparing more than two things, you must use the superlative (super) form or degree.

I am the eldest of three sisters.
You are the youngest person in your family.

Hint:Superman is the strongest. Superlative means the best.

Forming Degrees of Comparison

One syllable adjectives and adverbsadd suffix erbigger, older, neweradd suffix estbiggest, oldest, newest
Two syllable adjectives
(Check a dictionary if you aren’t sure.)
some (including ones ending in yowle)add suffix ersillier, quieter, politeradd suffix estsilliest, quietest, politest
some (including ones ending in ful)use moremore often, more carefuluse mostmost often, most careful
somecan either add suffix er or use moreheavier or more heavy
cleverer or more clever
can either add suffix est or use mostheaviest or most heavy
cleverest or most clever
Two syllable adverbsuse moremore quicklyuse mostmost quickly
Three syllable adjectives and adverbsuse moremore incredibleuse mostmost incredible
all adjectives and adverbsuse lessless friendlyuse leastleast friendly

Hint: When you are comparing one thing to the group, you can use the words other or else in your writing or in your mind to clarify what you are comparing.

James is taller than any boy in his class. (Is it comparative or superlative?)
James is taller than any other boy in his class. (It is clearly comparative.)

Michelle is a better artist than anyone in her art class. (Which is it?)
Michelle is a better artist than anyone else in her art class. (Clearly superlative.)

Hint: Watch out for adjectives and adverbs that share the same root. They are not the same word.

careful, more careful, most careful
carefully, more carefully, most carefully

Spelling changes

One syllable adjectives with a short vowel before a single consonant usually double the consonant before adding the suffixes.

big – bigger, biggest; mad – madder, maddest

One syllable adjectives that end in silent e or two syllable words that end in le do not double the e.

cute – cuter, cutest; little – littler, littlest

When adding suffixes er and est to words ending in y, you must change the y to an i before adding the suffix.

merry – merrier, merriest; friendly – friendlier, friendliest