What are Comparative and Superlative Adjectives?
Comparative adjectives, such as bigger or better, compare two nouns. We can use them to express that a person or thing has less or more of something. Superlative adjectives, such as biggest or best, compare one person or thing against a whole group. We can use superlatives to express that a noun has more of something than everything else in that group. Regular comparative and superlative adjectives are formed with the suffixes -er/est or the adverbs more/most. The irregular forms have to be learnt by heart.
Learn the rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives in English grammar and get tips on how and when to use them. Then put your knowledge to the test in the interactive exercises.
This clown’s funny. He’s the funniest clown I have ever seen.
The clown’s got a big nose. His nose is much bigger than mine.
How to use Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in English
Adjectives describe nouns.
- This clown is funny.
- The clown has got a big nose.
Adjectives also have comparative forms.
- His nose is much bigger than mine. (comparative)
- He is the funniest clown I have ever seen. (superlative)
Comparisons with basic adjectives
An adjective’s basic form is used for simple description of nouns, and also in comparisons using the phrases as ... as.
- simple description of nouns
- The clown is funny.
- as … as
- You are as funny as the clown.
I know as many jokes as the clown.
- not as … as / not so … as
- I am not as funny as the clown.
I am not wearing as much make-up as the clown.
- less … than
- I am less funny than the clown.
How to form Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
Comparative using er/est
We form the comparative adjectives of most single and two-syllable adjectives by adding the suffix -er. The Superlative form is constructed with the suffix -est.The table below provides an overview of single and two-syllable adjectives in the basic, comparative and superlative form.
|all single-syllable adjectives||clean||cleaner||the cleanest|
|two-syllable adjectives that end in y||easy||easier||the easiest|
Exceptions when adding er/est
- Add -r/-st to adjectives that end in -e.
- late – later – the latest (not: lateer– the lateest)
- A -y at the end of an adjective becomes an -i.
- easy – easier – the easiest
- The final consonant is doubled in adjectives that end with a consonant after a short stressed vowel.
- hot – hotter – the hottest
Comparative using more and most
The comparative form of multi-syllable adjectives is constructed with more and the basic form of the adjective. Whilst the superlative form is constructed with most and the basic form of the adjective. The table below provides an overview of multi-syllable adjectives in the basic, comparative and superlative form.
|all multi-syllable adjectives
(except two-syllable ones ending in -y/-er)
|difficult||more difficult||the most difficult|
Comparative using er/est or more/most
Some two-syllable adjectives can be formed with either -er/-est or more/most. Theses include primarily two-syllable adjectives that end in -er.
- clever – cleverer – the cleverest
clever – more clever – the most clever
Table: Irregular Comparative Forms of Adjectives
The table below lists the most common irregualr comparative and superlative adjectives.
|little (few)||less||the least|
|little (small)||smaller||the smallest|
|far (in space or time)||further||the furthest|
|far (in space)||farther||the farthest|
Adjectives That Can't Be Compared
Some adjectives are gradable and some are ungradable.
- We can modify gradable adjectives to express different levels.
- The clown yesterday was funny, but the clown on TV is funnier and the one from last week was the funniest.
- Non-gradable or extreme adjectives do not have a comparative or superlative form because they mean very funny, very big etc. Or because they express something which cannot be graded dead or pregnant.
- The clown is hilarious (very funny). not:
The clown is more hilarious than you.
- The clown has a huge (very big) red nose. not:
The clown has the hugest red nose.
- I think the clown is pregnant. not:
The clown is more pregnant than yesterday.
Some common extreme adjectives include: empty, full, alive, dead, pregnant, perfect, unique, round, square, awful, excellent, terrible, horrible, chemical, digital, domestic, immortal, starving, brilliant, gigantic, ultimate, ancient, complete etc.