Comparatives & Superlatives

Grammar Summary:

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.

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’.

Taller thanExamples:
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’.

The safestExamples:
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

John says 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’.

Happier thanExamples:
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...’.

More carefulExamples:
caring, more caring, the most caring
giftedmore 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.

Worse thanExamples:
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

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Printable PDFs for this lesson:

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