Grammar Tips 101: Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

June 20, 2019 by IELTS IELTS

Adjectives are used to describe or modify words. But when you want to compare objects, you need a specific set of adjectives to help. That's where comparative and superlative adjectives come in. However, these particular adjectives can prove to be tricky unless you remember a few simple rules.

Comparative Adjectives

When you want to compare two objects or emphasize the difference between two objects, a comparative adjective is used. When using a comparative adjective, the word than is used to join the two objects that are being compared. When forming comparative adjectives, there are a few rules that one must keep in mind:

  • One-syllable Adjectives: to make a one-syllable adjective comparative, add -er to the end of it. For example, cold becomes colder, nice becomes nicer, and long becomes longer.
  • Two-syllable Adjectives: two-syllable adjectives follow the same rule as one-syllable adjectives — adding an -er to the end of the word — but only if the word ends in y. For example, happy becomes happier and lovely becomes lovelier. However, if the word does not end in a y add either more or less in front of it. So pleasant would be more pleasant and peaceful would be less pleasant. This rule also applies to adjectives that have three or more syllables.

It’s important to note that the methods for two-syllable comparative adjectives cannot be used simultaneously. For example, you should not say “I am more happier than him.” Instead, say “I am happier than him.”

Irregular Forms

Like most rules of grammar in English, there are some exceptions. Irregular forms do not follow clear-cut rules and are not easily identifiable. For instance, words like good and bad are considered irregular and become better or worse in their comparative form. The best way to know which words are irregular is to use them in a sentence and see what sounds the most natural.

word adjective printed on paper macro

Superlative Adjectives

Superlative adjectives are used when you want to compare three or more objects. They can also be used to describe the lower and upper limits of an object. For instance, if you want to say that January is colder than December and November, you might say, “November is cold, December is colder, and January is the coldest.” When forming superlative adjectives, there are some rules to keep in mind:

  • One-syllable Adjectives: To make a one-syllable adjective superlative, add -est to the end. For example, hard would become hardest, small would become smallest, and large would become largest.
  • Two-syllable Adjectives Ending in Y: If an adjective ends in y change the y to an i and add -est to the end. For example, pretty would become prettiest, hairy would become hairiest, and ugly would become ugliest. It’s important to note that all other multi-syllabic words are not modified. Simply add the word most or least in front of the word. For example, you would say, “She is the most beautiful cat” or “that is the least important fact."

Comparative and superlative adjectives can be mastered easily by remembering a few simple rules. It’s important to make sure you set enough time aside to practice in this area to improve your grammar while preparing for IELTS. For more grammar tips, test prep materials or to find your nearest IELTS Test Centre location, please feel free to browse our website further!



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