How do I use comparatives and superlatives in English?

Learning Apr 25, 2024

In the English language, if you want to compare two or more objects, individuals, or actions, you use a specific set of words known as comparatives and superlatives. These linguistic tools help by highlighting both the differences and the similarities among the different things. If you are interested in learning more, join us as we delve into their usage in the English language.

Comparatives: Comparing Two Things

When you want to compare two things with each other, you use comparatives.
To form comparatives, you add “-er” to the end of the adjective, or by using the word “more” before the adjective. Here are some examples:

Adjective + -er 

  • Fast becomes Faster
  • Smart becomes Smarter
  • Quick becomes Quicker
  • Loud becomes Louder

More + Adjective 

  • Beautiful becomes more beautiful 
  • Worried becomes more worries
  • Careful becomes more careful
  • Boring becomes more boring

Here are some examples of comparatives in sentences:

  • The dog is faster than the mailman.
  • This book is more boring than that one.
  • You are smarter than you think.
  • He is more careful than her.

Here is a tip you can keep in mind:

  • If the adjective is short, it only has one or two syllables, then you use the “-er” form.
  • If the adjective is long, it has more than two syllables, then use “more” before the adjective.

Superlatives: Comparing Three or More Things

Now that we know what Comparatives are, let us explore the meaning of Superlatives. Superlatives are used when you want to compare three or more things and find out which one is the most or the least.
To form superlatives, you simply add “-est” to the end of the adjective, or you use “most” before the adjective. For example:

Adjective + -est

  •  Fast becomes Fastest
  •  Quick becomes Quickest
  •  Sweet becomes Sweetest
  •  Smart becomes Smartest

Most + Adjectives 

  • Beautiful becomes most beautiful
  • Boring becomes the most boring
  • Careful becomes most careful
  • Worried becomes most worried

Here is also a tip that will help you remember how to correctly use the Superlatives:

  • If the adjective is short, then you will use the “-est” form.
  • If the adjective is long, you use “most”before the adjective, just like with comparatives.

Here are some examples of how to use Superlatives in sentences:

  • The cheetah is the fastest land animal.
  • That was the most interesting book I have ever read.
  • We do not know who the smartest person in this room is.
  • She is the most careful person out of all of us.

Irregular Forms:

Something you need to keep in mind is that some adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms. These do not follow the usual rules.
Let us have a look at some examples:

  • Good: Better (comparative), best (superlative)
  • Bad: Worse (comparative), worst (superlative)
  • Far: Farther/further (comparative), farthest/furthest (superlative)

Comparing different things in English becomes easier once you understand how to use comparatives and superlatives. Practice makes perfect!

Superlatives: The Grammar Gameshow Episode 21

On this show the contestants challenge themselves on superlatives! Those comparative structures that tell us when something is outstanding in a particular way! Can you answer our questions? Who’s this rather important-looking character? Find out in this episode of the Grammar Gameshow by BBC Learning English.

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