Positive Comparative Superlative
Non-comparative Comparing two nouns compare more
Base adjective adj+than than two nouns
Frank is sweet Gwen is sweeter the+adj
than Frank mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
An adjective in English is a part of speech that describes or points to the distinguishing feature of a noun (person, place, or thing) and usually precedes the described word: blue fish, old donkey, big house, etc.
In English, there are three forms of adjectives, including two forms of comparative adjectives: positive (the initial form given in the dictionary), comparative and superlative.
Let’s examine more closely how to use the second and third forms.
How to Use the Comparative Form
The comparative form of adjectives is used when two or more things are compared. The conjunction than is used when making the comparison.
In order to use the comparative form you must:
add a suffix to adjectives that have one or two syllables: long-longer, brave-braver, thin-thinner.
If the adjective ends in –e (called a “silent e”), it is dropped, and the –er suffix is added: simple-simpler, polite-politer.
If the adjective ends in –y, when forming the comparative, y is replaced by i and the –er suffix is added: easy-easier, dirty-dirtier, happy-happier.
When the adjective ends with a consonant preceded by a vowel with a short sound, the consonant is written twice when forming the comparative (if the consonant is already written twice, do not change it): big-bigger, hot-hotter, thin-thinner, small-smaller, tall-taller.
To form the comparative with words that are more than two syllables, use the English words more and less: important-more important, dangerous-less dangerous, expensive-more expensive. This form is used with some two-syllable adjectives as well, such as useful-more useful. (In English, “usefuller” is incorrect.)
Note that the comparative form of some two-syllable adjectives can either be written with the –er suffix or by using the words more and less.
This is generally true with adjectives that end in -some, -ow, -ble, -er, -y. For example, the words noble, narrow, handsome, gentle, friendly, cruel, serious, quiet, polite, common, clever, angry, pleasant, sour, able, simple.
The superlative form is used when we are speaking about one person or thing that in some way exceeds all others.
In order to form the superlative, you must:
add the suffix –est to one-syllable adjectives and to two-syllable adjectives if the emphasis is on the last syllable: fast-the fastest, strong-the strongest, large-the largest.
use the words most and least for multi-syllable words: interesting-the most interesting, difficult-the most difficult, attractive-the least attractive.
The article the is usually used with a superlative form of adjectives.
Remember, however, that if the adjective ends with -e, -y or a consonant which is preceded by a vowel, when forming the superlative degree, the same changes occur as in the formation of the comparative: dirty-dirtiest, brave-bravest, big-biggest.
Exceptions Which Should be Learned
There are some “rebellious” adjectives that do not obey the general rules of forming comparatives in the English language. These adjectives simply need to be remembered:
good – better – the best
bad – worse – the worst
little – less – the least
many – more – most
old – older – the oldest
old – elder – the eldest (used when speaking about the eldest member in a family)
far – farther – the farthest (with regard to physical distance)
far – further – the furthest (a more general meaning than “farthest”)
near – nearer – the nearest
near – nearer – the next (next in line, or with regard to time)
It should also be mentioned that complex adjectives use more and most or change the first element to form the different degrees of comparison: good-looking – better-looking – best-looking.