As anyone with a competitive streak knows, there’s quite a difference between better and best. But do you know what makes that difference when it comes to grammar?
Understanding comparative vs. superlative adjectives can add a great deal of clarity to your writing. Read on for more on the difference, as well as examples of how to use each.
What Is a Comparative Adjective?
A comparative adjective describes a noun by comparing it to something else. Usually, you’ll see comparative adjectives formed by using words like “more than” or “less than,” or by adding “–er” to the end of the adjective.
One of the most common mistakes both native and non-native English speakers make is the incorrect formation of comparatives, usually by mixing up the different methods.
How to Form a Comparative: 3 options
When forming comparative adjectives, you have 3 options. Below are some guidelines for when and how to use each one.
- Add “-er”: For adjectives that are just one syllable, add -er to the end (like in bigger, smaller, and faster).
- Add “-ier”: For 2-syllable adjectives that end in –y, replace the -y with an -i, and then add -er (like in funnier, happier, or classier).
- “More [adjective]” or “less [adjective]”: For 2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y, and for all adjectives that have 3 or more syllables, use “more [adjective]” or “less [adjective]” (like in more attractive, less intelligent, and more elegant).
What is an example of a comparative?
Here are a few examples of sentences that contain comparatives:
- Her car is much faster than mine.
- Clara is 3 years older than her sister.
- He’s much happier now that he has a new job.
- That dress is more elegant than your first choice.
- The task is less complicated than you think.
What Are Superlatives?
Superlatives are adjectives used to compare more than two things. You’ll see most superlatives formed, again, in 1 of 3 ways: by adding “most,” “least,” or “-est.”
Superlatives indicate that something is the most or least of something, whether it’s simply the all-around best, the most fun, or the least interesting.
How to Form a Superlative: 3 options
Just like with comparatives, you have 3 options when it comes to forming superlatives. Your choice will depend on the syllables and the spelling of the original adjective.
- Add “-est”: For adjectives that are just one syllable, add -est to the end (like in biggest, smallest, and fastest).
- Add “-iest”: For 2-syllable adjectives that end in –y, replace the-y with an -i, and then add -est (like in funniest, happiest, or classiest).
- “Most [adjective]” or “least [adjective]”: For 2-syllable adjectives not ending in -y, and for all adjectives that have 3 or more syllables, use “most [adjective]” or “least [adjective].”
What is the superlative form of beautiful?
Words like “beautiful” and “handsome” often confuse people when it comes to forming comparatives and superlatives.
First, let’s look at beautiful. It has 3 syllables; therefore, the comparative and superlative forms should be written as follows:
- Comparative: more beautiful
- Superlative: most beautiful.
What are the comparative and superlative forms of handsome?
With handsome, things get a little more complicated. The rules above tell us that because handsome has 2 syllables, the comparative and superlative forms should be handsomer and handsomest, respectively.
However, modern speakers tend to prefer more handsome to handsomer, and they seem split on handsomest and most handsome.
This trend among native speakers seems to be pushing us toward the more/most construction.
More Irregular Adjectives
There are some comparatives and superlatives that you’ll simply have to memorize, since their adjectives are irregular and don’t follow any of the rules above.
|far||farther, further||farthest, furthest|
Comparatives vs. Superlatives
By learning how to correctly form comparative and superlative adjectives, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common writing mistakes.
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