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Comparing adjectives

Forming comparative adjectives

As well as serving as modifying words like beautiful and big, adjectives are also used for indicating the position on a scale of comparison. The lowest point on the scale is known as the absolute form, the middle point is known as the comparative form, and the highest point is known as the superlative form. Here are some examples:

Absolute Comparative Superlative
This book is long. This book is longer than that book. This is the longest book.
The airport is far. The airport is farther than the train station. This is the farthest airport.
My mom is a good cook. My mom is a better cook than your mom. My mom is the best cook.


The comparative form

When two objects or persons are being compared, the comparative form of the adjective is used. The comparative adjective can be formed in two ways:

  1. Adding –er to the absolute form of the adjective.
  2. Adding the word more before the adjective.

For example:

  1. My essay is longer than yours.
  2. She is more beautiful than her sister.

Here are the rules for choosing and forming the right form:

Add When Example Forming and Exceptions
-er Words of one syllable This is a longer book.
  • Words ending with ‘e‘, add ‘r‘ to the end of the word (e.g., lame → lamer).
  • Words with one vowel and one consonant at the end, double the consonant and add -er to the end of the word (e.g., big → bigger).
  • Words with more than one vowel or more than one consonant at the end, add -er to the end of the word (e.g., hard → harder).
-er Words of two syllables ending with ‘y This doll is prettier. Change ‘y‘ to ‘i‘, and add -er to the end of the word.
more Words of two syllables not ending with ‘y He is more charming than his friend. Insert more before the adjective
more Three syllable words or longer This is a more powerful cable. Insert more before the adjective

When comparing two things, the word than is positioned between the adjective and the thing being compared. For example:

  1. Apples are tastier than oranges.
  2. This painting is more interesting than that painting.

Superlatives

The superlative is used to say what thing or person has the most of a particular quality within a group or of its kind. The superlative can be formed in two ways:

  1. Adding –est to the absolute form of the adjective.
  2. Adding the word most before the adjective.

For example:

  1. This is the most beautiful dress I have ever seen.
  2. The biggest table in the room.

Here are the rules for choosing and forming the right form:

Add When Example Forming and Exceptions
-est Words of one syllable This is the longest book.
  • Words ending with ‘e‘, add ‘st‘ to the end of the word (e.g., large → largest).
  • Words with one vowel and one consonant at the end, double the consonant and add -est to the end of the word (e.g., big → biggest).
  • Words with more than one vowel or more than one consonant at the end, add -est to the end of the word (e.g., blue → bluest).
-est Words of two syllables ending with ‘y This doll is the prettiest. Change ‘y‘ to ‘i‘, and add -est to the end of the word.
most Words of two syllables not ending with ‘y He is the most charming boy at school. Insert most before the adjective
most Three syllable words or longer This is the most powerful story. Insert most before the adjective

Superlatives are usually preceded by the word the.

Positive form

The positive form is used in cases where there are no differences between the two compared things or persons. To form the positive, we use the word as before and after the absolute form of the adjective. For example:

  1. Danny is as smart as Phillip.
  2. She is as beautiful as her older sister.

This can also be applied in a negative context to indicate that the compared objects are not similar:

  1. Danny is not as smart as Phillip.
  2. She is not as beautiful as her older sister.

Exceptions (irregular forms)

Certain adjectives have irregular forms in the comparative and superlative degrees:

Absolute Comparative Superlative
Good Better Best
Bad Worse Worst
Little Less Least
Much/many/some More Most

Examples of comparing adjectives

  1. This house is bigger than that one.
  2. This flower is more beautiful than that.
  3. He is taller than Mr. Hulas.
  4. He is more intelligent than this boy.
  5. Jonathan is the most handsome man on campus.
  6. This is the prettiest dress in the window.
  7. I lost my most comfortable shoes.
  8. My job is worse than yours.

Comparing adjective exercises

1. Choose the comparative adjective in each group of sentences:

    1. Her hair is short.
    2. Her hair is shorter than it was before.
    3. Her hair is the shortest it has ever been.
    1. We live nearer the train station than we used to.
    2. Park in the lot nearest the train station.
    3. I know the train station is somewhere near.
    1. My dog might be ugly, but he is nice.
    2. That’s the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen!
    3. Because he was uglier than the others, my dog won the ugly dog contest.
    1. Your presentation was more informative than most.
    2. She gave an informative talk on honeybees.
    3. That’s the most informative speech I’ve ever heard Professor Brown give!

Answers: A: 2 – shorter B: 1 – nearer C: 3 – uglier D: 1: more informative

2. Which of the following sentences does not contain a comparing adjective?

  1. I’d like to have more participation from each of you this time around.
  2. If you’d have listened better, you wouldn’t be confused right now.
  3. They live in the brick house on the corner.

Answer:C

3. Choose the superlative adjective in each group of sentences:

    1. That’s the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted!
    2. You’re a lot nicer than your sister.
    3. This is delicious cake.
    1. This presentation seems longer than usual.
    2. Of all the hairstyles in the room, hers is most stylish.
    3. I’m often trying to do better than others.
    1. Lake Silfra has some of the clearest water on the world.
    2. This shop carries nicer things than it used to.
    3. My cat has three adorable kittens.
    1. Be careful; that’s a fragile vase.
    2. You’re more cheerful than you used to be.
    3. This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me.

Answers: A – 1: best B – 2: most stylish C – 1: clearest D – 3: most exciting

4. Which of the following sentences contains a superlative adjective?

  1. I can run further than before.
  2. She has the pinkest cheeks I’ve ever seen!
  3. Jimmy is a cute baby.

Answer: : B – pinkest

5. Choose the absolute adjective in each group of sentences:

    1. Your face is red.
    2. You have the reddest face!
    3. If you don’t wear sunscreen, your face will get redder.
    1. This is the best book I’ve ever read.
    2. I like this book better than the last one I read.
    3. That’s a good book.
    1. Most chocolate is sweet.
    2. Milk chocolate is sweeter than dark chocolate.
    3. I’m not sure which chocolate is sweetest.
    1. This is a charming house.
    2. Our new home is so much more charming than our old one.
    3. She’s the most charming person I’ve ever met.

Answers: A – 1: red B – 3: good C – 1: sweet D – charming

6. Choose the correct comparing adjective for each sentence:

  1. My mother is a _____________ woman.
    • Smart
    • Smarter
    • Smartest
  2. The surgeon worked ____________ to stabilize the patient.
    • Quickly
    • Most quickly
    • More quickly
  3. We ran ______________ than we did last week.
    • Fast
    • Faster
    • Fastest
  4. After the party, the house was the _______________ it’s ever been.
    • Messy
    • Messier
    • Messiest

Answers: A – smart B – quickly C – faster D – messiest

7. Name the type of comparing adjective in each sentence:

  1. Jinx is a hairy dog.
  2. She has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.
  3. He made me madder than I’ve been in a long time.
  4. We felt more excited than ever when we heard the news.

Answers: A – absolute B – superlative C – comparative D – comparative

8. Choose the sentence with the positive form comparing adjective:

  1. This book is more interesting than that one.
  2. The story we heard this week was as interesting as last week’s.
  3. This is one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard.

Answer: B

9. Which of the following sentences contains a comparing adjective in the comparative form?

  1. We’ve had a run of bad luck lately.
  2. This is the worst snowstorm we have had in ten years.
  3. Your injury is worse than mine.

Answer: C – worse

10. Which of the following sentences contains a comparing adjective in the superlative form?

  1. She is not as mean as her older sister is.
  2. This is the least exciting movie I’ve ever seen.
  3. Mr. Brown is more boring than Mr. Philips.

Answer: B – least exciting

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