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

positivecomparativesuperlative
longlongerlongest
newnewernewest
oldolderoldest

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

positivecomparativesuperlative
closecloserclosest
largelargerlargest
strangestrangerstrangest

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

positivecomparativesuperlative
bigbiggerbiggest
redredderreddest
sadsaddersaddest

3.3. Adjectives with two syllables and the following endings:

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

positivecomparativesuperlative
dirtydirtierdirtiest
earlyearlierearliest
nastynastiernastiest

3.3.2. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -e

positivecomparativesuperlative
handsomehandsomerhandsomest
littlelittlerlittlest
politepoliterpolitest

3.3.3. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -le

positivecomparativesuperlative
ableablerablest
gentlegentlergentlest
simplesimplersimplest

3.3.4. Adjectives with two syllables, ending in -ow

positivecomparativesuperlative
hollowhollowerhollowest
narrownarrowernarrowest
shallowshallowershallowest

4. Comparison with more – most

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

positivecomparativesuperlative
beautifulmore beautiful(the) most beautiful
difficultmore difficult(the) most difficult
importantmore important(the) most important

5. Irregular adjectives

positivecomparativesuperlativecomment
goodbetterbest 
badworseworst 
muchmoremostuncountable nouns
manymoremostcountable nouns
littlelessleast amount
littlelittlerlittlest size

6. Special adjectives

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

positivecomparativesuperlative
clevercleverer / more clevercleverest / most clever
commoncommoner / more commoncommonest / most common
likelylikelier / more likelylikeliest / most likely
pleasantpleasanter / more pleasantpleasantest / most pleasant
politepoliter / more politepolitest / most polite
quietquieter / more quietquietest / most quiet
simplesimpler / more simplesimplest / most simple
stupidstupider / more stupidstupidest / most stupid
subtlesubtler / more subtlesubtlest / most subtle
suresurer / more suresurest / most sure

7. Difference in meaning with adjectives

positivecomparativesuperlativecomment
farfartherfarthestdistance
furtherfurthestdistance or
time
latelaterlatest time
latterx 
xlast order
oldolderoldestpeople and things
eldereldestpeople (family)
nearnearernearestdistance
xnextorder