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Grammar Lesson: Comparison of Adjectives and Adverbs

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 15, 2010

Regular Comparison of Adjectives and Adverbs

To show how they differ in degree or extent, most adjectives and adverbs have three degrees (or forms)—the positive, the comparative, and the superlative.

One-syllable words form these degrees in a regular way.

  • The positive degree (or form) is used when an adjective or adverb modifier is not being compared. The young sister walked with her brother. (Young simply states the sister's age.)
  • The comparative degree (or form) is used when two people, places, things, or ideas are compared. Add -er to these words to form the comparative. The younger sister walked with her father. (The sister's age is being compared to the age of another sister.)
  • The superlative degree (or form) is used when more than two people, places, things, or ideas are compared. Add -est to these words to form the superlative. The youngest sister walked with her mother. (The sister's age is compared to the ages of at least two other sisters.)

Activity 1

Fill in each blank with the correct form of the word in parentheses.

  1. (smart) Johnny is the ______ of the twenty students.
  2. (nice) Mary is the ______ of the four directors.
  3. (bright) This new wallpaper is ______.
  4. (smooth) This board is ______ than the other one.
  5. (long) "This is the ______ song that I have ever heard," stated Julio.

Irregular Comparison of Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives and adverbs of two or more syllables form their comparative and superlative degrees (or forms) in an irregular way. The rules below will help you understand and utilize these forms.

  • Use -er, more, or less to form the comparative degree of many two-syllable modifiers or describers.
  • Adverbs that end in -ly always use more or less to form the comparative degree and most and least to form the superlative degree.
  • When forming the comparative and superlative degrees of modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) that have two syllables, "Let your ear be your gear." In other words, if adding -er or -est makes the word hard or clumsy to pronounce, use more (or less) and most (or least) instead.
  • Modifiers of three or more syllables, such as intelligent, cumbersome, and beautiful, always form their comparative degrees with more (or less) and their superlative degrees with most (or least). Examples include less magnificent, more interesting, and most spectacular.

Activity 2

Fill in each blank with the correct form of the word in parentheses.

  1. (frightened) My dog is the ________ of all those dogs in the kennel.
  2. (rigorous) Eddie feels that the rope climb is a ________ exercise than the push-up.
  3. (happy) Are you ________ today than you were yesterday?

Answers

Activity 1

  1. smartest
  2. nicest
  3. bright
  4. smoother
  5. longest

Activity 2

  1. most/least frightened
  2. ore/less rigorous
  3. happier
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