Forming comparative and superlative adjectives

The comparative form of an adjective is used for comparing two people or things (e.g. he is taller than me), while the superlative is used for comparing one person or thing with every other member of their group (e.g. he was the tallest boy in the class).

 

Adjectives make their comparative and superlative forms in different ways, depending on the base adjective itself. Here’s a quick-reference guide to the spelling of comparative and superlative adjectives:

 

Adjectives with one syllable

In general, if the adjective has one syllable, then the letters -er or -est are added:

warm

warmer

warmest

quick

quicker

quickest

tall

taller

tallest

 

Adjectives with one syllable ending in e

If the adjective has one syllable and ends in a silent e, drop the e and add -er or -est:

late

later

latest

nice

nicer

nicest

large

larger

largest

 

Adjectives with two syllables

Adjectives with two syllables vary. Some add -er/-est:

feeble

feebler

feeblest

 

Some use the words ‘more’ for the comparative and ‘most’ for the superlative:

famous

more famous

most famous

 

Many can do either, like clever:

clever cleverer/more clever cleverest/most clever

 

Adjectives with three syllables or more

If the adjective has three syllables or more, then the words ‘more’ and ‘most’ are used:

interesting more interesting most interesting
attractive more attractive most attractive

 

Adjectives that change their spelling

Some adjectives change their spelling when forming the comparative and superlative:

Some one-syllable adjectives that end with a single consonant (e.g. big, wet, sad, fat) double this consonant before adding -er or -est:

big bigger biggest
wet wetter wettest
sad sadder saddest

 

If the adjective ends in y (e.g. happy, greedy, or tidy), change the y to an i and add -er or -est:

happy happier happiest
greedy greedier greediest
tidy tidier tidiest

 

Some common adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms that you just have to learn (most dictionaries also give these spellings if you’re not sure):

bad worse worst
good better best
little (of a quantity) less least
much more most

 

Back to spelling.

 

You might also be interested in:

Forming adverbs

 


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