Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
Adjectives are used to describe or give information about nouns. If we want to compare nouns, we use comparative and superlative adjectives.
Making comparisons with adjectives
- Superlative Adjectives
In simple terms, an adjective is a word which is used to give extra information about a noun, or which helps to describe it. When we want to compare two or more nouns, we use a comparative adjective. When we want to talk about a single noun, and explain what makes it different to other nouns, we use a superlative adjective.
A comparative adjective is an adjective form which is used to compare two or more nouns.
France is smaller than Russia.
My sister is shorter than me.
It is easier to read English than to speak it.
A superlative adjective is an adjective form which is used to identify or describe one noun (of many) and explains that this noun has something which makes it different to other similar nouns or shows extremes.
Paris is the most romantic city in the world.
My brother is the laziest person I know.
When it was built, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world.
Comparative adjectives are used to compare the differences between two or more nouns. When we want to express a difference between two nouns we normaly use one of two forms, using a comparative adjective followed by 'than' or with 'as comparative adjective as' as shown below:
noun + to be + (comparative adjective + than) + noun
noun + to be + (as + comparative adjective + as) + noun
Comparative adjectives can be made negative by adding 'not' before the forms in brackets.
John is taller than Catherine.
Steven is as tall as John.
Catherine is not as tall as John.
Comparative construction - Short Adjectives
Most one-syllable adjectives and some two-syllable adjectives take the ending '--er'.
young --> younger
tall --> taller
old --> older
If the base adjective ends in "--y" we replace the "y" with "i":
heavy --> heavier
early --> earlier
busy --> busier
If the base adjective ends in "--e" we only add an "r":
large --> larger
simple --> simpler
late --> later
If the adjective ends with a single vowel +consonant, we double the consonant and add "--er":
big --> bigger
thin --> thinner
hot --> hotter
Some very common adjectives have irregular comparative forms:
good --> better
bad --> worse
far --> farther / further
Comparative construction - Longer Adjectives
Most adjectives which have two or more syllables are changed to a comparative form by adding 'more' (for positive comparisons) or 'less' (for negative comparisons) in front of the base adjective. The form 'as + comparative + as' can also be used with longer adjective forms.
My father is more impatient than my mother.
My brother is less intelligent than me.
The BMW M3 is more expensive than the 330i, but it is more economical.
Stephen King's latest book is not as interesting as 'The Green Mile'.
As much/many as....
We can also use these forms: "As much/many + noun + as + noun/pronoun" and 'As few/little + noun + as + noun/pronoun' to compare quantity. We can use 'as...as' to make a negative comparison.
I earn as much money as you.
Alice has as many children as Mary.
I don't earn as much money as you.
We don't have as many children as Richard and Susan.
They have as few visitors as we have.
They have as little money as we have.
Note: Although the 'as much/many' form is commonly used, the 'as few/little' form is rarely used in modern English.
The...... the.... comparisons
The construction: 'the less + comparative+ subject + verb + the + subject + verb' is used to explain how one thing is affected by another, and to say how things change. Note the word order.
The more I work, the more tax I pay
The older I get, the happier I am
The more she talks, the less I understand her!
'More' can be used with a noun in this structure:
The more money she earns, the more clothes she buys!
The superlative is used to illustrate extremes and usually refers to an individual thing or person. The superlative is used to explain that a noun has more of a specified quality than other similar nouns. A superlative adjective usually explains that the noun it refers to is unique. However, it can also refer to plural items or people: the best players, the richest people, the first, the worst, the last, etc. Short one-syllable adjectives become superlative by adding 'est' to the base adjective, whereas longer adjectives use the words 'most' or 'least'. The superlative is always preceded by a definite article.
Robert is the shortest boy in his school.
The Eifel Tower is the most famous building in France.
The new Aston Martin One-77 is the most expensive car in the world. It costs $1,770,000!
Superlative Construction - Short Adjectives
One-syllable adjectives (and some common two-syllable adjectives) become superlative by adding the ending '--est'.
young --> youngest
tall --> tallest
old --> oldest
If the adjective ends in '--y' we replace the 'y' with 'i' :
heavy --> heaviest
early --> earliest
busy --> busiest
If the adjective already ends in '--e' we only add '--st' :
large --> largest
simple --> simplest
late --> latest
If the adjective ends in a single vowel + consonant, we double the consonant and add"--est":
big --> biggest
thin --> thinnest
hot --> hottest
Some very common superlatives have irregular forms:
good --> best
bad --> worst
far --> farthest
Some adjectives exist only in superlative form:
Superlative construction - Longer Adjectives
Most adjectives which have two or more syllables are changed to a superlative form by adding 'the most' for positive comparisons and 'the least' for negative comparisons in front of the base adjective:
My father is the least patient man I know.
I am the most intelligent boy in my school.
The new Aston Martin is the most expensive car ever made in Britain.
Professor Stephen Hawking has the most original mind in modern science.
Degree modifiers with comparatives and superlatives
We cannot use 'very' with comparatives. Instead we use other degree modifiers like 'much', 'far', 'a lot','any', 'no', 'a little', 'a bit' and 'even'.
She is much older than her husband.
Is he any better?
Russian is much/far more difficult than Spanish.
You are no better than him.
We do not use ' any', 'no', 'a bit' and 'a lot' to modify comparatives in front of nouns.
There are much better shops in the city. (NOT … a bit/a lot better …)
When 'more' modifies a plural noun, it is modified by 'many'.
There are many moreopportunities available to students in the UK than in Greece.
When 'more' modifies a singular/uncountable noun, it is modified by 'much'.
He has much more money than I do.