English grammar

Module 5, Modifiers: Adjectives and Adverbs, Lesson 10:

Comparing with Adjectives and Adverbs

English grammar

We often use adjectives and adverbs to compare. There are three degrees of comparison, positive (or negative), comparative, and superlative.

If you are talking about only one thing, you can't really compare, but if the word modified possesses that characteristic, it is used in the positive. If it is a negative characteristic, it is in the negative.
I am old.
You are young.
If you are comparing two things, you must use the comparative (compare) form or degree.
I am older than my brother.
You are younger than your sister.
If you are comparing more than two things, you must use the superlative (super) form or degree.
I am the eldest of three sisters.
You are the youngest person in your family.
Superman is the strongest. Superlative means the best.

Forming Degrees of Comparison

Positives Comparative Superlative
One syllable adjectives and adverbs add suffix er
bigger, older, newer
add suffix est
biggest, oldest, newest
Two syllable adjectives
(Check a dictionary if you aren't sure.)
some (including ones ending in y, ow, le) add suffix er
sillier, quieter, politer
add suffix est
silliest, quietest, politest
some (including ones ending in ful) use more
more often, more careful
use most
most often, most careful
some can either add suffix er or use more
heavier or more heavy
cleverer or more clever
can either add suffix est or use most
heaviest or most heavy
cleverest or most clever
Two syllable adverbs use more
more quickly
use most
most quickly
Three syllable adjectives and adverbs use more
more incredible
use most
most incredible
Negatives Comparative Superlative
all adjectives and adverbs use less
less friendly
use least
least friendly
When you are comparing one thing to the group, you can use the words other or else in your writing or in your mind to clarify what you are comparing.

James is taller than any boy in his class. (Is it comparative or superlative?)
James is taller than any other boy in his class. (It is clearly comparative.)

Michelle is a better artist than anyone in her art class. (Which is it?)
Michelle is a better artist than anyone else in her art class. (Clearly superlative.)

Watch out for adjectives and adverbs that share the same root. They are not the same word.
careful, more careful, most careful
carefully, more carefully, most carefully

Spelling changes

One syllable adjectives with a short vowel before a single consonant usually double the consonant before adding the suffixes.

big - bigger, biggest; mad - madder, maddest

One syllable adjectives that end in silent e or two syllable words that end in le do not double the e.

cute - cuter, cutest; little - littler, littlest

When adding suffixes er and est to words ending in y, you must change the y to an i before adding the suffix.

merry - merrier, merriest; friendly - friendlier, friendliest

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar

Part 1: Choosing Degrees of Comparison

Decide whether the missing word needs to be positive/negative, comparative, or superlative.
Of the two toppings, I like pepperoni .
positive / comparative / superlative
This painting is than that one.
positive / comparative / superlative
Those palm trees are very .
positive / comparative / superlative
Of all my friends, she is the .
positive / comparative / superlative
Lydia's car is the of its kind.
positive / comparative / superlative
Mark is the of the two brothers.
positive / comparative / superlative
I think Joe is the boy in the world.
positive / comparative / superlative
Those rockets are .
positive / comparative / superlative
Today is than yesterday was.
positive / comparative / superlative
The hurricane so far this year hit Florida.
positive / comparative / superlative

Part 2: Choosing the Correct Forms

Click on the correct modifier to complete each sentence.
Anna needs more sunscreen than Megan because she is fair/fairer/fairest than her sister.
Darius is the tall/taller/tallest boy on the basketball team.
That baseball narrowly/more narrowly/most narrowly missed hitting the coach.
The cheetah is the fast/faster/fastest land animal.
My team is working quickly/more quickly/most quickly than your team.
After studying world religions, I am now ignorant/less ignorant/least ignorant than I was before.
Studies found that students who did not gossip were the popular/more popular/most popular in high school.
I didn't expect today's weather to be so cool/cooler/coolest.
After surgery, Nathan raised his arm weakly/more weakly/most weakly than we expected.
That is the slow/slower/slowest I have ever seen you move.

Part 3: Spelling Modifiers of Comparison

Choose the correct form of the modifier. Use a dictionary if you need to. For words that can go either way, er/est is the better choice.
thankful - thankfuller/thankfullest or more thankful/most thankful
loyal - loyaler/loyalest or more loyal/most loyal
soft - softer/softest or more soft/most soft
graceful - gracefuler/gracefulest or more graceful/most graceful
simple - simpler/simplest or more simple/most simple
careful - carefuller/carefullest or more careful/most careful
happy - happier/happiest or more happy/most happy
beautiful - beautifuller/beautifullest or more beautiful/most beautiful
immense - immenser/immensest or more immense/most immense
prickly - pricklier/prickliest or more prickly/most prickly