English Grammar Review
Adjectives and Adverbs

Adverb Comparisons

Adverbs that compare (and rank)

Most adverbs that can describe actions can also be used to compare actions and to rank actions as superlative.

Short adverbs are typically typed with an er added to compare things and an est added to rank things.

describe : Mariam drives fast in Cairo.

compare : Salma drives faster. [between two]

rank : Ahmed Hamada drives fastest. [among three or more]

Other examples include:

close . closer . closest

early . earlier . earliest

soon . sooner . soonest

The short adverb well uses irregular comparisons, as do a few other adverbs.

describe : I studied well in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

compare : Omar studied better.

rank : Mohamed studied best.

Other examples include:

badly . worse . worst

far . farther . farthest

little . less . least

Adverbs that end in ly are typically typed by starting with the word more or less to compare things and by starting with the word most or least to rank things.

describe : carefully

compare : more carefully, less carefully

rank : most carefully, least carefully

If you are not sure about the proper way to type an adverb to compare an action, and you think you can safely get your point across by just using multiple ways, don't! Double comparisons are bad English.

Rana arrived more sooner than anticipated. [wrong]

Rana arrived sooner than anticipated. [correct]

Special case: absolute qualities

Be careful with adverbs like uniquely that have an absolute quality and words like completely that have a yes-or-no quality. Literally, there are no such things as more uniquely or most completely. However, some of these words can be modified by certain other adverbs to suggest an action that is almost, but not quite, absolute.

more certainly . most perfectly

less conclusively . least universally

almost entirely . very definitely

Lesson: Adverb Comparisons
Module: Adjectives and Adverbs
Course: English Grammar Review