Dutch Language Blog

The Stairs of Equation Posted by on Nov 17, 2008 in Dutch Language


I’m not sure if the title is a known concept in the English language. It’s a literal translation of:


De trappen der vergelijking = literal: The Stairs of Equation = Comparative and Superlative Adjectives.


Every Dutch adjective can take three forms to convey the amount of strength of the word.


We have:

De stellende trap (de positief/ positive?). For example: groot.

This is the standard form of the adjective.



De vergrotende trap (de comparatief/comparative). To continue with the previous example… the comparative would be: groter


De overtreffende trap (de superlatief/superlative). The superlative of previous examples would be: grootst.


In Dutch we get the different ‘steps’ by adding –er and –st to the adjective.

Examples: groot – groter – grootst (big – bigger – biggest)

klein – kleiner – kleinst (small – smaller – smallest)


Adjectives which end with an –r, will get an extra letter in the superlative form… the d.

Examples: raar – raarder – raarst (weird – weirder – weirdest)

ver – verder – verst (far – further –furthest)


Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. The most common exceptions are:


goed – beter – best (good – better – best)

veel – meer – meest (much – more – most)

weinig – minder – minst (little – less – least)

graag – liever – liefst (not sure how to translate this… but you can compare it with: like to – rather – love to … I think)                                 ‘

Sometimes adjectives get split:

Dichtbevolkt – dichter bevolkt – dichtbevolkst (closely populated – more closely populated – most closely populated)


In the standard Dutch language, the word ‘dan’ (than) follows the superlative or comparative and not the word ‘als’ (as). A lot of mistakes are made with this.

It’s: hij is groter dan mij NOT hij is groter als mij (he is bigger than me)

hij is jonger dan mij NOT hij is jonger als mij (he is younger than me)


The word ‘als’ (as) is used in sentences to show an ‘equal state’.


hij is net zo groot als mij – he is just as big as me

hij is net zo oud als mij – he has the same age as me


Not all languages use the stairs of equation the way we do in the Netherlands. In English there are also the three different steps (great – greater – greatest) but often the comparatives en superlatives use ‘more’ and ‘most’. Like: recent – more recent – most recent, in Dutch this would be: recent – recenter – recentst


Sometimes Dutch people also start to use the English rules, causing ‘anglicisme’. People start using: meest bekende instead of bekentste (most known) etc. etc. Also expressions like: ‘de tweede grootste’ instead of ‘de op één na grootste’ (the second biggest…) are sometimes used. Still, the Dutch prefer the Dutch constructions, though sometimes with very long words the use of ‘most’ would make it better readable. And sometimes even in Dutch there are cases when ‘meer’ and ‘meest’ are used (more and most).



Ze zijn meer bereid tot extra financiële steun dan tot een wijziging van het beleid.

They are more prepared to give additional financial support, than to change the policy.


Zij is de meest verdorven persoon die ik ooit heb ontmoet

She is the most corrupted person I’ve ever met.

Till next time!



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  1. r.f.s. de wijn:

    het moet zijn

    hij is even groot als IK ..
    hij is even oud als IK ..

    vr. gr.
    rfs de wijn