Confused by comparative and superlative forms in English? No problem! Check out our list of the 35 most common adjectives with examples to see exactly how these words are used in context. Use the exercises at the end to practise and don’t forget to download your copy of this free study guide!
Are you having problems understanding the comparative and superlative in English? Don’t worry – even native speakers make mistakes with these! In this study guide, we will explain each type of adjective and give you a list of the 35 most common. You will improve your understanding with our native examples and can test your knowledge with the exercises at the end of the guide. Ready? Let’s get cracking!
Comparative adjectives are used to compare differences between the two objects they modify (e.g. larger, smaller, faster, higher). They are used in sentences where two nouns are compared:
Noun + verb + comparative adjective+ than + noun.
E.g. The cat ran faster than the dog.
The way we form comparative adjectives depends on the adjective!
For one-syllable adjectives, we add ‘-er’ to the end to make the comparative form (e.g. old – older, hard – harder). With short vowels, we double the final consonant before adding the ‘-er’ (e.g. big – bigger, hot – hotter). With adjectives ending in ‘-y’, we add an ‘i’ before the ‘-er’ (e.g. dry – drier, happy – happier).
For two-syllable (or longer) adjectives, we keep the adjective the same but add ‘more’ in front (e.g. boring – more boring). Most of these adjectives end in ‘-ly’, for example: carefully, efficiently, recently, etc.
There are also some irregular forms that don’t follow these rules. You will have to learn these separately! For example, the comparative form of far is further, the comparative form of bad is worse and of good is better.
Trains are more expensive than buses in London.
(We are comparing two forms of transport: trains and buses. Expensive is a three-syllable adjective so we keep the adjective the same and add ‘more’ before it)
Hannah is taller than Jane.
(We are comparing Hannah and Jane’s height. Tall is a one-syllable adjective so we add -er to the end)
Fruit is healthier than chocolate.
(We are comparing two different types of food. Healthy ends in -y so we add -ier to the end of the adjective)
Max is better at maths than David, but is worse at maths than Sarah.
(We are comparing Max’s ability at maths to David’s and then to Sarah’s. As good and bad are both irregular forms, we use better and worse)
Superlative adjectives are used to describe an object that is at the upper or lower limit of a quality (e.g. the tallest, the smallest, the fastest, the highest).
In other words, they describe extremes. They are used in sentences to compare three or more nouns:
Noun + verb + the + superlative adjective + noun.
E.g. Parrots are the noisiest birds in the jungle.
To form superlatives, you need to follow similar rules to those above for making comparative adjectives.
For one-syllable adjectives and two-syllable adjectives ending in ‘-y’, we add –est to the end of the adjective (e.g. old – oldest). With short vowels, we double the final consonant before adding the –est (e.g. big – biggest), and with adjectives ending in ‘-y’ we add an ‘i’ before the –er (e.g. friendly – friendliest).
For two-syllable (or longer) adjectives, we keep the adjective the same but add ‘the most’ in front (e.g. boring – the most boring).
The irregular forms in comparative adjectives are the same for superlative adjectives. So the superlative form of far is (the) furthest, bad becomes the worst and good is the best.
Trains are the most expensive transport in London.
(We are comparing trains vs. all other forms of transport. Expensive is a three-syllable adjective so we keep the adjective the same and add ‘the most’ before it)
Hannah is the tallest person in her family.
(We are saying Hannah is taller than everyone else in her family. Tall is a one-syllable adjective so we add -est to the end)
Grapefruit is the healthiest fruit.
(We are comparing grapefruit to all other types of fruit. Healthy ends in ‘-y’ so we add -iest to the end of the adjective)
Max is the best at maths in his class, but is the worst at science.
(We are saying that Max is better at maths than everyone in his class, but is worse at science than everyone in his class. As good and bad are both irregular forms, we use the best and the worst).
Table: How to form comparative and superlative adjectives
|One-syllable adjectives and adjectives ending in -y|| |
|adjective + -er|
|the + adjective + -est|
|Two-syllable or longer adjectives||more + adjective||the most + adjective|
|interesting||more interesting||the most interesting|
|boring||more boring||the most boring|
|narrow||more narrow||the narrowest|
We can use quantifiers with comparative adjectives to show if there is a big or small difference between the two things we are comparing.
The US is a lot bigger than Ireland.
Sarah has much longer hair than Anna.
A great deal
It is a great deal more polluted in London than Cornwall.
It’s far healthier to eat a salad than a burger.
The company’s sales have been significantly better this year.
Siberia is considerably colder than Australia.
This week’s homework is way easier than I thought it would be.
For a small difference use…
The chocolate cake was a little more popular than the lemon sponge.
A bit (informal)
First class train tickets are always a bit more expensive than standard ones.
A little bit
The UK is a little bit further north than France.
France is slightly bigger than Spain.
My hotel room is only marginally bigger than yours.
We don’t use quantifiers with superlative adjectives but there are common phrases that are used with superlatives. These are useful to know as they are very commonly used by native speakers and you will likely hear them a lot!
Aramaic is one of the oldest languages in the world.
(We are not saying it is necessarily the oldest. Often used when we don’t know something for sure)
According to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, London is the second most visited city in the world.
By far the…
In England, the bus is by far the cheapest mode of transport.
(Meaning by a long way or by a significant margin)
Fill in the correct form of the words in brackets (comparative or superlative).
Rewrite these sentences to give them the opposite meaning by using the adjectives in brackets.
Match the pictures with the correct sentences below.
|Task A||Task B||Task C|
In this study guide, you will learn about different types of nouns, with examples of how to use them in a sentence. Check out the exercises at the end to test your understanding! You can also download this guide as a free pdf to use offline. Continue reading
Inquiry and enquiry sound the same (ɪnkwaɪəri), but have different meanings in British English. Inquiry means ‘official investigation’ – e.g. The government launched an inquiry into corruption. Enquiry means ‘a question about something’ – e.g. The gym received an enquiry about its opening hours. Americans only use inquiry. Continue reading