English Grammar Review
Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjective Comparisons

Adjectives that compare (and rank)

Most adjectives that can describe things can also be used to compare things and to rank things as superlative.

describe : high

compare : higher [of two]

rank : highest [of more than two]

This is how short adjectives (one syllable) are typically typed, with an er added to compare things and an est added to rank things.

Long adjectives (with three or more syllables) 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 : acceptable

compare : more acceptable, less acceptable

rank : most acceptable, least acceptable

Adjectives that are neither short nor long are formed in unique ways. Each adjective is different. You must develop an "ear" for what sounds right. Or you must use a dictionary.

friendly . friendlier . friendliest
[sounds right]

friendly . more friendly . most friendly
[sounds okay]

famous . famouser . famousest
[sounds very wrong]

famous . more famous . most famous
[sounds right]

A few adjectives have irregular formations for comparing and ranking:

bad . worse . worst

good . better . best

little . less . least

many . more . most

Special case: groups

When comparing a person or thing with each separate member of a group, add the word other or else.

Hanoi is larger than any other city in Vietnam.

It is larger than any city in Vietnam.
[not clear: Is it in Vietnam?]

Khiem's design was better than anyone else's.

Her design was better than anyone's.
[not clear: anyone's what?]

Note: When the group is only two people or things, superlative ranking is not quite correct English. Adjectives that compare are preferred.

Between Mai and Khiem, Mai is the taller of the two. She commutes by bike or by bus, but she has always liked using a bike better. Although both methods of transportation are inexpensive, she feels that biking is the more efficient.

Special case: absolute qualities

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

more square . less adequate . very full

more complete . less perfect . very free

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