Grammar Comparative Adjectives |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Comparative Adjectives

Most adjectives have three forms or degrees: the positive, the comparative, and the superlative. In this discussion, we’ll take a closer look at comparative adjectives.

A comparative adjective compares two items by modifying the adjective with -er, more, or less.

Base adjective: fast

Comparative adjective between two items: faster

Comparative adjective applied: David is a faster runner than Richard.

It’s important to note the distinction that comparative adjectives involve only two items. If we are attributing a foremost quality to one of more than two items, we would use a superlative adjective: Among David, Richard, and Tony, David is the fastest (not faster) runner.

Comparative Adjectives: Nuances

Comparative adjectives include a couple of nuances to note.

One is that when we are using a comparative adjective to compare two things, one or both of the compared things may be a group.

The Pacific Ocean is larger than all other oceans.

We are talking about multiple oceans, but the comparison is still one thing with another.

Another nuance concerns a comparison such as the following:

Taylor is smarter than any student at the school.

In this context, one could infer that Taylor is not a student at the school; rather, Taylor could be outside of the school and smarter than the students who attend it.

By adding the word other, we imply that Taylor is among the students at the school:

Taylor is smarter than any other student at the school.

Forming Comparative Adjectives: Short

As we’ve mentioned, comparative adjectives are made by modifying them with –er, more, or less. Short adjectives either of one syllable or of two syllables ending in y typically form the comparative degree by adding -er.

If the short adjective ends in the letter e, we simply add the letter r to form -er; we do not add -er to the existing final e. For adjectives of two syllables ending in y, we replace the y with -ier.

Short: One syllable Short: Two syllables ending in y
cold colder happy happier
large larger (not largeer) dusty dustier
small smaller pretty prettier

In some cases, the comparative form of short adjectives requires us to double the final consonant of the base adjective: big/bigger, hot/hotter, fit/fitter.

Forming Comparative Adjectives: Long

With some exceptions, longer adjectives for comparative purposes are generally classified as those with three or more syllables or those with two syllables that do not end in y. We form the comparative by pairing the adjective with more or less.

Adjective Comparison more Comparison less
relaxed more relaxed less relaxed
expensive more expensive less expensive
challenging more challenging less challenging

Forming Comparative Adjectives: Irregular

Comparative adjectives also include those that change form from the base word. The following are several examples of irregular comparative adjectives.

Base adjective Irregular comparative
good/well better
bad worse
far farther/further

Comparative Adjectives: Both Forms

Some comparative adjectives can both take the -er form and be part of a more or less construction.

Adjective Comparison -er Comparison more Comparison less
clever cleverer more clever less clever
simple simpler more simple less simple

Related Topic

Adjectives and Adverbs: Forms for Comparison

Pop Quiz

Using what you know about comparative adjectives, convert each adjective in parentheses into its proper comparative form. For comparative adjectives paired with more or less, you can choose either modifier.

1. Thomas is (funny) than Robin.

2. Lizette is (intelligent) than Marissa.

3. The stitching of this quilt is (elaborate) than that one.

4. These flowers make me (happy) than those.

5. The critics have said that the movie sequel is (bad) than the original film.


Pop Quiz Answers

1. Thomas is funnier than Robin.

2. Lizette is more intelligent (or less intelligent) than Marissa.

3. The stitching of this quilt is more elaborate (or less elaborate) than that one.

4. These flowers make me happier than those.

5. The critics have said that the movie sequel is worse than the original film.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

6 responses to “Comparative Adjectives”

  1. David Hayes says:

    Great article!

    I came across the Cambridge English Dictionary definition of the word “acme” as: “the best or most perfect thing that can exist or be achieved.”

    Also, Joe Biden in his inaugural speech as U.S. President referred to “a more perfect Union.”

    Any comment on “most perfect” and “more perfect”?

    • says:

      Since perfection cannot be improved upon, we would hesitate to use the phrases “more perfect” or “most perfect” on our site.

  2. David Hayes says:

    Thanks for replying.

    When you say “we would hesitate to use the phrases,” are you implying that you wouldn’t rule out using them in exceptional circumstances?

    • says:

      While we cannot speak for other sources such as the Cambridge English Dictionary, we would probably not ever use phrases such as “more perfect” or “most perfect” on our website unless surrounding context put us in an unexpected instance of adapting ourselves for clarity’s sake, in which case we might revise the surrounding context.

  3. Sachi G says:

    What about the adjective “true”? It is one syllable, and yet it is awkward to say that Statement A is “truer” than Statement B.

Leave a Comment or Question:

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *