Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

There are three ways you can compare adjectives

  • positive
  • comparative
  • superlative

1. Positive with as

The positive form is used in cases where there are no differences between the two compared things or persons. To form the positive, we use the word as before and after the absolute form of the adjective

  1. Martin is as tall as John.
  2. She is as beautiful as her sister.

This can also be applied in a negative context to indicate that the compared objects are not similar:

  1. Martin is not as tall as John.
  2. She is not as beautiful as her sister.

2. Comparison – the basic rules

When two objects or persons are being compared, the comparative form of the adjective is used. The comparative adjective can be formed in two ways:

  1. Adding –er to the absolute form of the adjective.

          tall → taller → (the) tallest

      2. Adding the word more before the adjective.

          beautiful → more beautiful → cleaner → (the) most beautiful

Which one to use depends on the number of syllables in the adjective

3. Comparison with -er/-est

3.1. Adjectives with one syllable add -er and -est

positive comparative superlative
long longer longest
new newer newest
old older oldest

3.2. Adjectives with one syllable and the following endings:

3.2.1. Adjectives with one syllable ending in –e only add r and st

positive comparative superlative
close closer closest
large larger largest
strange stranger strangest

3.2.2. Adjectives with one syllable ending in a consonant with a single vowel before it double the consonant and add er and st

positive comparative superlative
big bigger biggest
red redder reddest
sad sadder saddest

3.3. Adjectives with two syllables and the following endings:

3.3.1. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -y have ier and iest

positive comparative superlative
dirty dirtier dirtiest
early earlier earliest
nasty nastier nastiest

3.3.2. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -e

positive comparative superlative
handsome handsomer handsomest
little littler littlest
polite politer politest

3.3.3. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -le

positive comparative superlative
able abler ablest
gentle gentler gentlest
simple simpler simplest

3.3.4. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -ow

positive comparative superlative
hollow hollower hollowest
narrow narrower narrowest
shallow shallower shallowest

4. Comparison with more – most

All adjectives with more than one syllable (except some adjectives with two syllables – see 3.3. above)

positive comparative superlative
beautiful more beautiful (the) most beautiful
difficult more difficult (the) most difficult
important more important (the) most important

5. Irregular adjectives

positive comparative superlative comment
good better best  
bad worse worst  
much more most uncountable nouns
many more most countable nouns
little less least  amount
little littler littlest  size

6. Special adjectives

Some adjectives have two possible forms of comparison (-er/est and more/most).

positive comparative superlative
clever cleverer / more clever cleverest / most clever
common commoner / more common commonest / most common
likely likelier / more likely likeliest / most likely
pleasant pleasanter / more pleasant pleasantest / most pleasant
polite politer / more polite politest / most polite
quiet quieter / more quiet quietest / most quiet
simple simpler / more simple simplest / most simple
stupid stupider / more stupid stupidest / most stupid
subtle subtler / more subtle subtlest / most subtle
sure surer / more sure surest / most sure

7. Difference in meaning with adjectives

positive comparative superlative comment
far farther farthest distance
further furthest distance or
time
late later latest  time
latter x  
x last  order
old older oldest people and things
elder eldest people (family)
near nearer nearest distance
x next order