- Comparative and superlative adjectives
- ◊ GRAMMAR comparative adjectivesComparative adjectives are used to indicate that something has more of a quality than something else, or more than it used to have. The comparative of an adjective is formed by adding `-er', as in `smaller', or by putting `more' in front of the adjective, as in `more interesting'.\
Current diesel engines are more efficient than petrol engines in terms of miles per gallon.Superlative adjectives are used to indicate that something has more of a quality than anything else of its kind, or more than anything else in a particular group or place. The superlative of an adjective is formed by adding `-est', as in `smallest', or by putting `most' in front of the adjective, as in `most interesting'. Superlatives are usually preceded by `the'.
...the oldest building in the city.\
A house or a self-contained flat is the most suitable type of accommodation for a family.◊ WARNINGIn conversation, people often use a superlative rather than a comparative when they are comparing just two things. For example, someone might say `The train is quickest' rather than `The train is quicker' when comparing a train service with a bus service. However, you should not use a superlative like this in formal writing.\◊ forming comparative and superlative adjectivesThe choice between adding `-er' and `-est' or using `more' and `most' usually depends on the number of syllables in the adjective.\With one-syllable adjectives, you usually add `-er' and `-est' to the end of the adjective.tall — taller — tallest, quick — quicker — quickest\If the adjective ends in a single vowel letter and a single consonant letter, you double the consonant letter (unless the consonant is `w').big — bigger — biggest, fat — fatter — fattest\If the adjective ends in `e', you remove the `e'.rare — rarer — rarest, wide — wider — widest\`Dry' usually has the comparative `drier' and the superlative `driest'. However, with the other one-syllable adjectives ending in `y' (`shy', `sly', and `spry'), you do not change the `y' to `i' before adding `-er' and `-est'.\◊ two syllablesYou also add `-er' and `-est' to two-syllable adjectives ending in `y', such as `angry', `dirty', and `silly'. You change the `y' to `i'.happy — happier — happiest, easy — easier — easiest\Other two-syllable adjectives usually have comparatives and superlatives formed with `more' and `most'. However, `clever' and `quiet' have comparatives and superlatives formed by adding `-er' and `-est'.\Some two-syllable adjectives have both kinds of comparative and superlative.
I can think of many pleasanter subjects.
It was more pleasant here than in the lecture room.
Exposure to sunlight is one of the commonest causes of cancer.\
...five hundred of the most common words.Here is a list of common adjectives which have both kinds of comparative and superlative:common, cruel, gentle, handsome, likely, mature, narrow, obscure, pleasant, polite, remote, shallow, simple, stupid, subtle\`Bitter' has the superlative form `bitterest' as well as `most bitter'. `Tender' has the superlative form `tenderest' as well as `most tender'.\◊ three or more syllablesAdjectives which have three or more syllables usually have comparatives and superlatives with `more' and `most'.dangerous — more dangerous — most dangerous, ridiculous — more ridiculous — most ridiculous\However, this does not apply to three-syllable adjectives formed by adding `un-' to the beginning of other adjectives, for example `unhappy' and `unlucky'. These adjectives have comparatives and superlatives formed by adding `-er' and `-est' as well as ones formed by using `more' and `most'.
He felt crosser and unhappier than ever.\
He may be more unhappy seeing you occasionally.◊ irregular formsA few common adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms.good — better — best, bad — worse — worst, far — farther/further — farthest/furthest, old — older/elder — oldest/eldest\See entries at ↑ farther - further and ↑ elder for more information on the forms of `far' and `old'.\◊ 'little'There is no comparative or superlative of `little' in standard English. To make a comparison, `smaller' and `smallest' are used.\◊ 'ill'`Ill' does not have a comparative or superlative form. When you want to use a comparative, you use `worse'.\
Each day Kunta felt a little worse.◊ colour adjectivesUsually only qualitative adjectives have comparatives and superlatives, but a few basic colour adjectives also have these forms.
His face was redder than usual.\
...some of the greenest scenery in America.◊ compound adjectivesThe comparatives and superlatives of compound adjectives are usually formed by putting `more' and `most' in front of the adjective.nerve-racking — more nerve-racking — most nerve-racking\Some compound adjectives have as their first part adjectives or adverbs with single-word comparatives and superlatives. The comparatives and superlatives of these compounds sometimes use these single-word forms, rather than `more' and `most'.good-looking — better-looking — best-looking, well-known — better-known — best-known\The following compound adjectives have comparatives or superlatives using single-word forms:good-looking, high-paid, long-lasting, long-standing, low-paid, short-lived, well-behaved, well-dressed, well-known, well-off\◊ another use of 'most'`Most' can also be used in front of some adjectives to mean `very'.
This book was most interesting.
My grandfather was a most extraordinary man.See entry at ↑ most.\◊ 'more or less'The expression `more or less' is used in front of adjectives (and other words) to indicate that something is almost the case. It does not indicate a comparison.
The basic federal organization remained more or less intact.\
I had gradually become more or less immune to feeling of every kind.◊ using comparativesComparatives can be used in front of nouns or as complements after link verbs.
Their demands for a bigger defence budget were refused.
To the brighter, more advanced child, they will be challenging.
Be more careful next time.\
His breath became quieter.Comparatives normally come in front of all other adjectives in a noun group.\
Some of the better English actors have gone to live in Hollywood.◊ comparatives with 'than'Comparatives are often followed by `than' and a noun group or clause, to specify the other thing involved in the comparison.
My brother is younger than me.
I was a better writer than he was.\
I would have done a better job than he did.◊ linked comparativesYou can indicate that the amount of one quality or thing is linked to the amount of another quality or thing by using two comparatives preceded by `the'.
The larger the organization, the less scope there is for decision.\
The earlier you detect a problem, the easier it is to cure.Note that you can use comparative adjectives or adverbs in this structure. You can also use the comparative determiners and pronouns `more', `less', and `fewer'.\◊ using superlativesSuperlatives can be used in front of nouns, or as complements after link verbs.
He was the cleverest man I ever knew.
Now we come to the most important thing.
He was the youngest.\
The sergeant was the tallest.Superlatives normally come in front of all other adjectives in a noun group.\
These are the highest monthly figures on record.You usually put `the' in front of a superlative. However, `the' is omitted after a link verb when the comparison does not involve a group of things. It is also sometimes omitted in conversation or informal writing when comparing a group of things.
Beef is nicest slightly underdone.\
Wool and cotton blankets are generally cheapest.◊ WARNINGYou cannot omit `the' when the superlative is followed by a structure indicating what group of things you are comparing. For example, you cannot say `Amanda was youngest of our group'. You must say `Amanda was the youngest of our group'.\You can use possessive determiners and nouns with 's instead of `the' in front of a superlative.
...the school's most famous headmaster.\
...my newest assistant.Note that this is not usually done when the superlative is used after a link verb.\◊ indicating group or placeYou can use a superlative on its own if it is clear what is being compared. However, if you need to indicate the group or place involved, you use:\• a prepositional phrase, normally beginning with `of' for a group or `in' for a place
Henry was the biggest of them.
These cakes are probably the best in the world.\
...one of the worst deserts in Australia.• a relative clause
It's the best I'm likely to get.
The visiting room was the worst I had seen.\
That's the most convincing answer that you've given me.• an adjective ending in `-ible' or `-able'
...the longest possible gap.\
...the most beautiful scenery imaginable.◊ 'of all'If you want to emphasize that something has more of a quality than anything else of its kind or in its group, you can use `of all' after a superlative adjective.
The third requirement is the most important of all.\
We are unlikely yet to have discovered the oldest fossils of all.◊ with ordinal numbersOrdinal numbers, such as `second', are used with superlatives to say that something has more of a quality than nearly all other things of its kind or in its group. For example, if you say that a mountain is `the second highest mountain in the world', you mean that it is higher than any other mountain except the highest one.
...Mobil, the second biggest industrial company in the United States.\
It is Japan's third largest city.◊ comparison with 'less' and 'least'To indicate that something does not have as much of a quality as something else or as it had before, you can use `less' in front of an adjective. See entry at ↑ less.
The cliffs here were less high.\
As the days went by, Sita became less anxious.To indicate that something has less of a quality than anything else or less than anything in a particular group or place, you use `least' in front of an adjective.\
This is the least popular branch of medicine.
Useful english dictionary. 2012.