Comparatives & Superlatives
Grammar lesson: How do we construct adjectives in the comparative and superlative in English? It depends – on the number of syllables and spelling.
There are also irregular forms you need to memorise. Below is a summary of the rules on this subject.
The explanation is divided into 4 parts. 1) Adding '-er than' and 'the -est'; 2) Adding '-ier than' and 'the -iest'; 3) Adding 'more ...-er than' and 'the most ...' and 4) Irregular forms.
1) Add ‘-er than’ & ‘the -est’:
a) Most one-syllable adjectives
i) Most one-syllable adjectives form comparatives and superlatives with: ‘-er than’ and ‘the -est’.
tall / taller than / the tallest
old / older than / the oldest
long / longer than / the longest
ii) For one-syllable adjectives ending with ‘-e’, just add ‘-r’.
nice / nicer than / the nicest
safe / safer than / the safest
large / larger than / the largest
iii) For one-syllable adjectives ending with vowel + consonant, add a double consonant.
big / bigger than / the biggest
fat / fatter than / the fattest
thin / thinner than / the thinnest
b) Certain two-syllable adjectives
Some two-syllable adjectives also form comparatives and superlatives with: ‘-er than’ and ‘the -est’.
simple / simpler than / the simplest
quiet / quieter than / the quietest
clever / cleverer than / the cleverest
Note these are adjectives with the emphasis on the first syllable. Note these two-syllable adjectives can also take ‘more... than’ & ‘the most...’. See 3) below.
2) Add ‘-ier than’ & ‘the -iest’:
Two-syllables, ending with ‘-y’
For two-syllable adjectives ending with ‘-y’ add: ‘-ier than’ and ‘the -iest’.
happy / happier than / happiest
easy / easier than / easiest
friendly / friendlier than / friendliest
Note These two-syllable adjectives can also take ‘more... than’ & ‘the most...’. See below
3) Add ‘more... than’ & ‘the most...’:
a) Some two-syllable adjectives - optional
Adjectives in sections 1b) and 2) above can also take ‘more... than’ & ‘the most...’.
more simple than / the most simple
more quiet than / the most quiet
more friendly than / the most friendly
b) Most other two-syllable adjectives
However, most other adjectives with 2 syllables, and in particular those ending with -ing, -ed, -ful and -less must take ‘more... than’ & ‘the most...’.
caring, more caring, the most caring
gifted, more gifted, the most gifted
careful, more careful, the most careful
useless, more useless, ... most useless
c) Three (or more)-syllable adjectives
For adjectives of three syllables or more add: ‘more... than’ and ‘the most...’.
important / more important than / the most important
intelligent / more intelligent than / the most intelligent
beautiful / more beautiful than / the most beautiful
4) Irregular forms
The following adjectives are irregular. Learn them all by heart.
good / better than / the best
bad / worse than / the worst
far / farther than / the farthest
little / less than, the least
many/much, more than, the most
To practise what you've learnt, click the following comparatives exercise