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:

bad worse worst

good better best

little (of a quantity) less least

much more most

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Grammar and usage