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The Comparative and Superlative Forms of Adjectives

by Leyla Norman, Demand Media

    An adjective can be modified to express degree or to compare objects. The comparative form is used when you compare two objects, and the superlative form is used when you compare three or more objects. “Than” often goes after the comparative form and “the” is used before the adjective in superlative form.

    One Syllable

    If an adjective has one syllable, add "er" to form the comparative form and "est" to form the superlative. For example, "tall" is “taller” in comparative form and “tallest” in superlative form. You might say, “She is taller than Alex” or “She is the tallest of all the friends.” Add "r" to form the comparative form of a one-syllable adjective that ends with an "e" and "st" to form the superlative. Large becomes “larger” in the comparative form, and “largest” in the superlative form. Double the consonant and add "er" if a one-syllable adjective has one consonant at the end with a vowel before it. For the superlative form, double the consonant and tack on "est." For example, "big" becomes “bigger” in the comparative form and “biggest” in the superlative form.

    Two Syllables

    Two-syllable adjectives use the word "more" to make the comparative form and "most" to make the superlative. For example, "careful" becomes “more careful” in the comparative form and “most careful” in the superlative form. Change the "y" to "i" and add "er" to make the comparative form of a two-syllable adjective that ends in "y." To make the superlative form, change the "y" to "i" and tack on "est." For example, "busy" is “busier” in the comparative form and “busiest” in the superlative form. If a two-syllable adjective ends in "er," "ow" or "le," use "er" and "est" to make its comparative and superlative forms. "Gentle" is “gentler” in the comparative form and “gentlest” in the superlative form, for example.

    Three or More Syllables

    Adjectives that have three or more syllables use "more" for the comparative form and "most" for the superlative form. "Important" is “more important” in the comparative form and “most important” in the superlative form.

    Irregular Adjectives

    Several irregular adjectives do not use "er," "est," "more" or "most" to form their comparative and superlative forms. "Good" becomes “better” in the comparative form annd “best” in the superlative form, for example. Other examples are "bad" -- “worse” for comparative, “worst” for superlative” -- "little" -- “less” for comparative, “least” for superlative -- "far" -- “further” for comparative, “furthest” for superlative -- and "many" -- “more” for comparative and “most” for superlative.

    Other Considerations

    Do not use "more" with an "er" comparative, nor "most" with an "est" superlative. Saying “more prettier” or “most prettiest” is not correct. Also, do not try to form comparatives or superlatives from adjectives that express an excessive form of comparison, such as "unique." You can, however, say that something is “more perfect” or that something is “fuller.” Some adjectives do not form comparatives. Complete, absolute, impossible, chief, sufficient and stationary are some of these adjectives.

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    About the Author

    Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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