Comparative Forms of Adjectives

By Maeve Maddox - 2 minute read

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Adjectives have inflections. That is, adjectives change in spelling according to how they are used in a sentence.

Adjectives have three forms: positive, comparative, and superlative.

The simplest form of the adjective is its positive form. When two objects or persons are being compared, the comparative form of the adjective is used. When three or more things are being compared, we use the adjective’s superlative form.

A few adjectives, like good and bad form their comparatives with different words:

That is a good book. This is a better book. Which of the three is the best book?
He made a bad choice. She made a worse choice. They made the worst choice of all.

The comparative forms of most adjectives, however, are formed by adding the suffixes
er and –est, or by placing the words more and most in front of the positive form.

RULES FOR FORMING COMPARATIVES:
1. One syllable words form the comparative by adding -er and -est:

brave, braver, bravest
small, smaller, smallest
dark, darker, darkest.

2. Two-syllable words that end in -y, -le, and -er form the comparative by adding -er and -est:
pretty, prettier, prettiest
happy, happier, happiest
noble, nobler, noblest
clever, cleverer, cleverest

3. Words of more than two syllables form the comparative with more and most:
beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful.
resonant, more resonant, most resonant

4. Past participles used as adjectives form the comparative with more and most:
crooked, broken, damaged, defeated, etc.

5. Predicate adjectives (adjectives used to describe the subject of a sentence) form the comparative with more and most:
afraid, mute, certain, alone, silent, etc.
Ex. She is afraid. He is more afraid. They are the most afraid of them all.

So far, so good, but when it comes to two-syllable words other than the ones covered by Rule 2, the writer must consider custom and ease of pronunciation.

Usually, two syllable words that have the accent on the first syllable form the comparative by adding –er and –est.
Ex. common, cruel, pleasant, quiet.
BUT tasteless, more tasteless, most tasteless.

Some two-syllable words that have the accent on the second syllable form the comparative by adding –er and –est: polite, profound,
BUT: bizarre, more bizarre, most bizarre.

The rules given above should prevent abominations like “more pretty” or “beautifuler.” When in doubt, look up the preferred inflected forms in the dictionary.

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82 Responses to “Comparative Forms of Adjectives”

  • adberto castañeda

    thank you to explain the sdjetives

  • karllyia houser

    This information is useful, but it would be much more helpful if there was a complete list of information as to when we use comparatives. For example, when do we use as or from with comparatives.

  • Maeve

    Karllyia,
    I don’t understand what kind of additional information you are looking for.

    We use comparatives when we want to show the state of one object relative to one or more other objects. The rules for forming the usual comparisons are given above.

    The word as can be used in the construction: You are as happy as a clam. Here the first “as” is an adverb modifying “happy”; the second “as” is a conjunction introducing the clause “a clam (is).”

    This book is different from that one might be seen as a statement of comparison. Is that what you’re thinking of?

    Please expland on your question.

  • Amy

    Isn’t this information you put wrong?:

    Some two-syllable words that have the accent on the second syllable form the comparative by adding -er and -est: polite, profound

    How can it be politer or politest? That’s not right

  • Maeve

    Amy,
    “Polite” is one of several two-syllable adjectives that can form the superlative either way:

    polite, politer, politest
    OR
    polite, more polite, most polite

    Here’s an article on adjective comparison by another writer:

  • Old Friend

    Someone tell sweet Karllyia that someone who loves her very much and always will is looking for her and left a message for her on the esl teacher’s board website. Thank you.

  • Marilene

    I love the site. I have been tecahing English for a long time and like to get some help from the internet. I loved the explanation about comaparisons.

  • tessa

    I loved the explanation about

  • Tikesia Webb

    i really like this website, full of helpful tips.

  • jose

    I`d like to learn about these tips to benefit me and learning more rapidly

  • mohammed salama

    i appreciate ur explanation , thanks alot.

  • Marie Claire Santos.

    Thanks for explain my question
    Tanks soo much!

  • Natalia

    What’s the comparative of fun?

    Most fun? Why?

  • Natalia

    What’s the comparative of fun? More fun or funner?

    According to the rules shold be funner, but I’ve been checking some pages on the internet and I found MORE FUN, why?

    Is this another exception?

    Thank you so much.

  • Linda Cox

    I wish someone with an advanced English degree would answer the fun question. Ask anyone, and he will say: funner is not a word. Why is it not a word? Why doesn’t it follow the rule? Does it have anything to do with the fact that fun is a noun, and we have turned it into an adjective? For example, in: We had more fun at Sandra’s party than at Mary’s, fun is the direct object, a noun. Then I guess we would also say, Sandra had a more fun party this year than last (comparative adjective). Why is: Sandra had a funner party this year– wrong? Where did this come from? Do we just not like the sound of fun– funner– funnest or is there more to this?

  • kashif

    I want three forms of adjective list as
    Big Bigger Biggest

  • ananya

    i dont understand this

  • lablu

    i want to what is comparative and superlative form of Cruel

  • Prativa sharma

    I think that it is not complet. A lots of things are missed here like; examples are not given anywhere which is most important to make the sense clear and proper defination is also not mentioned properly. and i would request you to give importance to examples please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Amy

    I’m with Ms. Cox on this-what IS the problem with funner? Also, what about drunk? Can one person be drunker than another? Or must we sober up enough to say, “I am more drunk than you”?

  • Yasmine

    Hi,
    I want to answer the question about the problem with “funner”???
    what I can tell you is: fun is a noun. We form some adjectives by adding an inflectiion to a noun , for example
    danger (noun) + ous (inflection) we obtain = dangerous (adjective)
    the same thing happens with the noun fun, we add “Y” and we get the adjective “FUNNY”. and it is this adjective that becomes a comparative “funnier” and the superlative “funniest”.
    Someone can ask me (why it is not “more funny/ most funny)
    I can answer this saying the rule is like that: it is a two syllable adjective (FUN+NY) and it ends in Y. Consequently any two-syllable adjective ending in Y takes the form: funny/funnier/funniest like happy/happier/happiest.
    Does it sound clear?
    thank you

  • Ace

    How about modern? whats is the correct form of adjective? thanks

  • Yasmine

    “modern” is a two-syllable adjective BUT doesn’t end with “Y” so we use it with “more”
    Example: This city is more modern than the one we visited last summer.

    convinced???

  • sahary

    is the word “fun” irregular adjective?

  • zaynab

    i’m a fresh teacher and your debate have been pretty helpful but i’m wondering about the adjective relax i know it’s of two syllables not ending in y but more relax doesn’t sound correct i am confused can u help me please thanx

  • Mrs Elmasri

    Hi Dears
    as we know when we want to use comparative adjective we must use the word (than) to compar between two things and my question is (can i use the comparative adjective to talke about one thing only without add another thing. what i mean is that for example
    ((she was the happier girl in the party)) or ((she is the happier girl in the party)) are they corect sentences

  • zaynab

    can anyone answer me?

  • Yasmine

    to Zaynab,
    Relax is a verb not an asjective. Relaxed is the adjective. As a result you never use the inflection “-er” with the adjectives ending in “ed”. Does it make sense to say relaxeder??? So, with adjectives ending in “ed” we use “more” … “more relaxed” we also say more interested…
    I hope this helps!

  • Yasmine

    To Mrs Elmasri,

    You can use one thing when comparing two elements. You may also omit the compared thing BUT in your example, you’re talking about all the people in the party, you are comparing one girl (not to another girl, but to all the girls or persons in the party.
    So, you can choose either possibility:
    1. She is the happiest girl in the party. (one compared to many girls)
    2. she is happier the happier. (of the two)
    In other words, your sentences are correct if you omit the last part which is…”in the party”.
    Does it sound clear?Tell me if I could help!

  • Mrs Elmasri

    from MrsElmasri
    To Yasmine
    Thank you verey much it is very clear

  • Mrs Elmasri

    Hi
    could any one help me about the word ((improve))
    what is the impersonal noun of this word

  • Yasmine

    If I understand your request, “improve” is a verb, and you want the noun…
    In this case, a wide range of nouns are built with verbs to which we add the suffix “ment” .
    As a result, we’ll have the noun : improvement.
    I hope I have answered your question!

  • zaynab

    To Yasmin
    Thank U very much, your answer cleared the confusion very well. 🙂
    if i may, i want to ask about doubling the last consonant in words which end with cvc when we want to add something.the question is why some words like map are not doubled?

  • Yasmine

    Hi Zaynab
    “map” is a word composed of CVC so, it doubles the PP… “mapping”
    the same with : capping, strapping, trapping, wrapping

    hope it helps!;-))

  • zaynab

    hello yasmine
    i know the rule but it seems that it doesn’t apply to the plural form. for e.g the plural of map is maps not mapps. Is there anything that i’ve missed?when do we double it and when we don’t?
    I truly appreciate ur efforts,thanx.

  • Yasmine

    Hi,
    When dealing with the plural form we don’t need to double the last letter since the mark for the plural is just one letter, the “S”.

    But when we add an inflection -er (for comparative, -ed (for the past), -ing (for the gerund or the continuous form)… we double the letter since the inflection we choose to add (-er or -ed or -ing…) starts with a vowel

    e.g. hot/hotter, map/mapped and mapping BUT maps (plural).
    beg/begged and begging BUT begs (present simple)
    Thanks!

  • zaynab

    thank u yasmin !!!
    I have a question.
    what did U do to arrive at this point(not the grammar the overall knowledge)?am not envying you(well yes a little),but i’ve recently done the MD entrance exams and if they accepted me i need some help with choosing the major, i was considering the linguistics since i am concerned with the grammatical part of the languge.so what did U do to get this deep!!?

  • zaynab

    i’ve been thinking.according to what U’ve established the plural form of bus is busses since we’r adding es not just s. People use buses, is it an exception?or am missing something again?coz as u know busses means kisses

  • Yasmine

    …bus is an exeption indeed (plural can be buses or busses)
    to confirm what I’m saying… click on this link…
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/buses
    interesting questions!!!

  • Yasmine

    Are you in an American or a Canadian university? What MD entrance exams consist in? what does it stand for? I mean what are the outcomes? In which field…?

    Thanks for clarifying!

  • zaynab

    thanx a lot u’ve been very helpful.
    I am lebanese, i got a bachelor’s degree in the English language(linguistic branch) from the lebanese university, if we want to proceed to get the MD we do entrance exams in translation and in advanced general knowledge of the language.The results R coming in few days so wish me luck they want just 35 student out of about 150 :s

  • Yasmine

    I hope you’ll be among the 35. I wish you good luck and great success in your studies… so, if I’m not mistaken, MD stands for Master Degree?!
    For me, I got a bachelor’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Secondary students (aged 15-18) and worked for 20 years in that field. Now, I’m taking some other courses to teach adults in other fields but English as a Second language. I’m also having translation too. 😉

  • zaynab

    great.
    Ur name sounds arabic but ur earlier question gives the impression that u R either american or canadian.
    Anyway, i wish i gain such a knowledge as urs and that u do not get bored of answering our questions.

  • Yasmine

    I’m answering your questions with great pleasure.
    You’re right about my name but I’ve been living in Canada for years… teaching English as a second language and French as a Foreign language for kids and teenagers… and in some more months to adults! This is enriching my life and I like it!

    So, feel free to ask me whatever you want about English, I don’t mind at all!

  • Mrs Elmasri

    i am intersted in visiting my grandparents is this sentence corect and does [visiting] here a verb or a noun?

  • Dyanne

    I have questions about Rule 2 and Rule 5, using the word “mild” as an example. According to Rule 2, I would say: We will have milder temperatures today. Rule 5 instructs me to say: Temperatures are more mild this morning. This sounds awkward to me, though I know sometimes awkward-sounding constructions are actually grammatical. This sounds better to me: Temperatures are milder this morning. But is this the way it should be said? Is it: Temperatures are more mild, or is it: Temperatures are milder? Thanks.

  • Yasmine

    it’s correct!
    Hi,
    if you use another example with “be interested in” you’ll have the answer:
    I’m interested in music.
    music is a noun so… “visiting” is a noun too but derived from a verb to which we add “ing” so… we can say that a gerund can play the role of a noun.
    in your example : I’am intersted in visiting my grandparents
    “am” is the verb.
    What do you think?

  • Yasmine

    @Dyanne

    People tend to use both but “more mild” in particular.
    I personally would go for “milder” because it follows the rule: a one-syllable adjective forms its comparative by adding -er.
    Here is a link to a dictionary that confirms this:
    http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/mild_1

    Here is also a quote by Samuel Johnson: (using “milder”)

    Avarice is generally the last passion of those lives of which the first part has been squandered in pleasure, and the second devoted to ambition. He that sinks under the fatigue of getting wealth, lulls his age with the milder business of saving it.

    Hope it helps!!!

  • zaynab

    hi
    i think that mild is a two syllable adjective like quiet but the second syllable is so weak that it doesn’t count , so we should use mild milder quiet quieter but people tend to use more mild thinking that it follows the rule.
    Am i correct?

  • zaynab

    hi again
    i need your help guys
    i ‘m wondering about the articles i read somewhere “a 83 year old… “and somewhere else “a x….” it doen’t feel right they should put an not a coz B4 vowels we put an.
    can you tell me anything about it.

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