What Are the Different Degrees of Adjectives?

Adjectives can compare bigger and smaller.
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Adjectives modify nouns. They exist in three forms: the positive, comparative and superlative degrees. While the positive degree of an adjective doesn't require that the word be altered in any way, the comparative and superlative degrees often require either the addition of suffixes or the words "more" or "most" to convey comparison. Some adjectives, however, are irregular and take unique augmentations.

1 Positive Forms

The positive of an adjective is the form in which the word appears in the dictionary or vocabulary lesson, or that which can be described as its standard form. Adjectives in the positive degree don't compare the nouns they modify to others. They don't use the suffixes "-er," or "-est" or take the comparative "more" or the superlative "most."

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2 Comparative Forms

Adjectives in the comparative degree often take the inflected suffix "-er" without any spelling changes. However, whenever a two-syllable adjective ends in "-y," the "-y" is dropped and "-ier" is added instead of "-er." An example would be the augmentation of "lovely" to "lovelier." However, some adjectives, such as "beautiful," don't take any suffixes, and instead take the word "more" in front of them. Therefore, "beautiful" becomes "more beautiful."

3 Superlative Forms

The superlative degree is used to express the most extreme degrees of comparison. For adjectives that take suffixes, "-est" or "-iest" is added. "Rich" becomes "richest" and "lovely" becomes "loveliest." And while comparative adjectives can take the word "more" in front of them, superlative adjectives take the word "most." When comparing three beauties, the superlative example would be "most beautiful."

4 Irregular Forms

As with other mechanical applications, some adjectives are irregular in how they form the various degrees. Other words change entirely: "Good" becomes "better" in the comparative degree and "best" in the superlative. "A little" becomes "less," and then "least." The words "much," "many," and "some" all become "more" and "most," respectively.

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."