Comparative and Superlative Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

Comparative and Superlative

The English language is nobody's special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.

DEREK WALCOTT (1930–   )


There is one more way in which adjectives and adverbs are used: to compare one thing to another in relation to varying amounts—more, most, less, and least.

We can use adjectives and adverbs to show comparison of things and actions in our writing and speaking. We have three levels or degrees of comparison for both: positive, comparative, and superlative.

The positive degree represents the base form of the adjective or adverb:
ADJ: Her sweater is white. ADV: He walks fast.

In the comparative degree, a comparison between two things or actions is made:

ADJ: Her sweater is whiter than mine. ADV: He walks faster than I do.

In the superlative degree, a comparison between more than two things or actions is made:

ADJ: Her sweater is the whitest. ADV: He walks the fastest.

Rules to Remember

Rule 1: Many adjectives and adverbs useer andest endings.

However, we can't say good, gooder, goodest, or much, mucher, muchest. Such adjectives and adverbs are called irregular. Their comparative and superlative forms have to be memorized. Here are some words that fall into this category.

Rule 2: Many adjectives and all adverbs that contain two or more syllables must use more and most to enhance their degree, and less and least to decrease the degree.

Some adjectives that don't fit this rule are narrow, picky, silly, clever, friendly, simple, quiet, and gentle.

Rule 3: Some adjectives are called absolute adjectives or incomparable adjectives because they are words that absolutely cannot be compared, no matter how hard you try.

Take the adjective round for instance. What could be rounder than round? Or what could be more perfect than perfect? Get it? Other absolute adjectives are favorite, true, false, unique, square, free, and complete.

Absolute adverbs are in the same boat. Words like all, every, completely, and entirely already mean everything possible, don't they? So how could they be intensified any more than they already are? Likewise, never and always, words that express the two most extreme points of time, could hardly be stretched beyond their boundaries.

A practice exercise for this concept can be found at Comparative and Superlative Practice Exercise

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