The comparative form is used to compare two people, ideas, or things. The superlative form with the word the is used to compare three or more. Comparatives and superlatives are often used in writing to hedge or boost language.
|Adjective or Adverb||Comparative||Superlative|
|One-syllable adjectives||small||smaller||(the) smallest|
|big||bigger (Note the spelling here)||(the) biggest|
|Most two-syllable adjectives||thoughtful||more/less thoughtful||(the) most/least thoughtful|
|useful||more/less useful||(the) most/least useful|
|Adverbs ending in -ly||carefully||more/less carefully||(the) most/least careful|
|slowly||more/less slowly||(the) most/least slowly|
|Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y||sleepy||sleepier||(the) sleepiest|
|Two-syllable adjectives ending with –er, -le, -or, or –ow||little||littler||(the) littlest|
|Three or more syllable adjectives||intelligent||more/less intelligent||(the) most/least intelligent|
|important||more/less important||(the) most/least important|
To form comparative sentences, use the comparative with the word than. Here are some examples:
- Fewer participants volunteered for the study than I had anticipated.
- Business school was less expensive than law school.
- His application was processed more quickly than he thought.
More and less
We use the quantifier more to talk about additional quantities, amounts and degree. More is a comparative word.
- Alex had been hiding more than a father.
- No one could have been more private than Josh.
- Around 1600, the Elizabethan Poor Law came into effect and lasted more than two centuries.
- Ultimately, workhouses would provide shelter to more than one hundred thousand paupers.
- he felt that Jim would know more about the Saw-Horse later on.
- The teacher answered, “I know of no man who is more honored than yourself.”
- Think no more about it, he said.
We can say that one thing or person is less than another thing by using ‘less … than’:
- Scotland is less big than France.
- Lucy is less tall than Luke.
- My book is less interesting than your book.
- Finding the most effective sources remained less than satisfactory.
- Now the world has one less fool!
- His tone was less than convinced.Alex spoke from behind her, his tone less than friendly.
- The Gargoyles were very small of stature, being less than three feet in height.
Much/ Many and a lot of
These work in the same way as some and any. Much may only be used with uncountable nouns while many is used with countable.
Do we have much time?
Were there many people at the party?
A lot of is used for positive.
There were a lot of people at the party.
Again, much and many may also be used in questions if the speaker thinks that the answer will be positive.
When any, much/many are used in negative sentences, the verb is in the negative form. It is also possible to produce negative by using no or none.
There weren’t any people in the restaurant.
There were no people at the restaurant.
Were there any problems during the project?
There were none.
some and any
We do not normally use the quantifier some in negative and interrogative sentences. We normally use any:
Do you have any children?
Did you see any friends?
We don’t have any children.
I didn’t see any friends.
We saw some lions at the zoo, but we didn’t see any tigers.
but we can use some for offers and requests:
Would you like some tea?
I want some apples, please.
The comparative form of an adjective is commonly used to compare two people, things, or states, when you want to say that one thing has a larger or smaller amount of a quality than another.
- If the second part of the comparison is mentioned it follows than.
- Anna is taller than Mary but Mary is older.
- Emma is much slimmer than when I last saw her.
- Online learning is less expensive than conventional college courses.
- Comparison in which you are considering whether two people or things are equal is shown by using as…as in the affirmative and not as…as or not so…as in the negative.
- Helen is as tall as Linda, but not as strong.
The superlative form is used for more than two people, things, or states, when one thing has qualities that exceed all the others. Superlative adjectives have the in front of them, but it can be omitted in predicative positions.
- That is the smallest camera I have ever seen.
- He gave the least expensive gift to his sister.
- I’ll have whichever is (the) ripest.
There are two ways in which the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives are formed:
- You add -er (comparative) or -est (superlative) to the adjective. Adjectives with one syllable usually take these endings.
comparative superlative bright brighter the brightest long longer the longest sharp sharper the sharpest
- If the word already ends in -e, the -e must be left off. If a word ends in -y, it usually takes -er or -est, and the -y changes to -i.
comparative superlative wise wiser the wisest pretty prettier the prettiest weary wearier the weariest
- You add the word more or most in front of the adjective. Adjectives with three syllables or more use more or most in front of the adjective.
comparative superlative fortunate more fortunate the most fortunate relevant more relevant the most relevant
Adjectives formed from participles use more or most as well.
comparative superlative provoking more provoking the most provoking enthralled more enthralled the most enthralled
To indicate the opposite of both the -er/-est and the more/most forms of comparison, less or least is always used.
comparative superlative sharp less sharp the least sharp fortunate less fortunate the least fortunate interesting less interesting the least interesting involved less involved the least involvedAdjectives with two syllables (including those that already end in -er) can follow either pattern or sometimes both patterns. If you are doubtful about a two-syllable adjective, use the more/most pattern.
comparative superlative shallow shallower the shallowest or more shallow the most shallow polite politer the politest or more polite the most polite
A small group of irregular adjectives have quite different forms for the comparative and superlative forms.
comparative superlative good better the best bad worse the worst far further the furthest7
Some Common Errors With Comparisons
Common Error 1: Using the comparative instead of the superlative
- INCORRECT: He is the happier person I know.
- REVISION: He is the happiest person I know.
- INCORRECT: She is the more thoughtful person I know.
- REVISION: She is the most thoughtful person I know.
Common Error 2: Doubling up comparisons or superlatives
- INCORRECT: His car is more faster than mine.
- REVISION: His car is faster than mine.
- INCORRECT: His car is the most fastest.
- REVISION: His car is the fastest.
Common Error 3: Using empty comparisons (part of the comparison is missing)
- INCORRECT: The participants were more experienced.
- REVISION: The participants were more experienced than the previous participant pool.
- INCORRECT: The line moved more slowly.
- REVISION: The line moved more slowly than the line next to it.
Common Error 4: Using ambiguous comparisons (the comparison has more than one possible meaning)
- INCORRECT: She likes pizza better than her husband. (Does this mean that pizza is better than her husband?)
- REVISION: She likes pizza better than her husband does. (Now it is clear that the comparison is who likes pizza more.)
- INCORRECT: Her suitcase is bigger than John. (Does this mean that the size of the suitcase is larger than another person?)
- REVISION: Her suitcase is bigger than John’s. (Now it is clear that the comparison is about two suitcases, not about John.)
Common Error 5: Missing the article “the” in the superlative
- INCORRECT: Finishing quickly was least important task.
- REVISION: Finishing quickly was the least important task.
- INCORRECT: The youngest girl was also littlest.
- REVISION: The youngest girl was also the littlest.