The comparative and the superlative

Comparative adjectives

Comparative adjectives are used to compare differences between the two objects they modify (larger, smaller, faster, higher). They are used in sentences where two nouns are compared, in this pattern:

Noun (subject) + verb + comparative adjective + than + noun (object).

The second item of comparison can be omitted if it is clear from the context (final example below).

Examples
  • My house is larger than hers.
  • This box is smaller than the one I lost.
  • Your dog runs faster than Jim's dog.
  • The rock flew higher than the roof.
  • Jim and Jack are both my friends, but I like Jack better. ("than Jim" is understood)

Superlative adjectives

Superlative adjectives are used to describe an object which is at the upper or lower limit of a quality (the tallest, the smallest, the fastest, the highest). They are used in sentences where a subject is compared to a group of objects.

Noun (subject) + verb + the + superlative adjective + noun (object).

The group that is being compared with can be omitted if it is clear from the context (final example below).

Examples
  • My house is the largest one in our neighborhood.
  • This is the smallest box I've ever seen.
  • Your dog ran the fastest of any dog in the race.
  • We all threw our rocks at the same time. My rock flew the highest. ("of all the rocks" is understood)

Forming regular comparatives and superlatives

Forming comparatives and superlatives is easy. The form depends on the number of syllables in the original adjective.

One syllable adjectives

Add -er for the comparative and -est for the superlative. If the adjective has a consonant + single vowel + consonant spelling, the final consonant must be doubled before adding the ending.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
tall taller tallest
fat fatter fattest
big bigger biggest
sad sadder saddest
Two syllables

Adjectives with two syllables can form the comparative either by adding -er or by preceeding the adjective with more. These adjectives form the superlative either by adding -est or by preceeding the adjective with most. In many cases, both forms are used, although one usage will be more common than the other. If you are not sure whether a two-syllable adjective can take a comparative or superlative ending, play it safe and use more and most instead. For adjectives ending in y, change the y to an i before adding the ending.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
happy happier happiest
simple simpler simplest
busy busier busiest
tilted more tilted most tilted
tangled more tangled most tangled
Three or more syllables

Adjectives with three or more syllables form the comparative by putting more in front of the adjective, and the superlative by putting most in front.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
important more important most important
expensive more expensive most expensive

Irregular comparatives and superlatives

These very common adjectives have completely irregular comparative and superlative forms.

Adjective Comparative Superlative
good better best
bad worse worst
little less least
much more most
far further / farther furthest / farthest
Examples
  • Today is the worst day I've had in a long time.
  • You play tennis better than I do.
  • This is the least expensive sweater in the store.
  • This sweater is less expensive than that one.
  • I ran pretty far yesterday, but I ran even farther today.
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