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Comparison of Adjectives Posted by on May 19, 2012 in English Grammar, English Language

I am tall but Mary is taller and Tom is the tallest of us all.

Can you find the adjective in the sentence above? Remember, an adjective is a word that describes or tells us more about a noun or a pronoun.

If you said “tall” then you were correct. Tall is the adjective in the opening sentence. You might be wondering why tall gets some extra letters (-er and –est) further along in the sentence. That is because when we make comparisons with adjectives we do so in these ways:

 

Positive

Comparative

Superlative

Group One short

smart

weak

shorter

smarter

weaker

shortest

smartest

weakest

Group Two expensive

awkward

difficult

more expensive

more awkward

more difficult

most expensive

most awkward

most difficult

Group Three bad

far

good

small/little

worse

farther

better

smaller

worst

farthest

best

smallest

The first thing you probably noticed in the chart above was the three forms at the top – positive, comparative and superlative.

  • Positive – The unaltered form of an adjective is often referred to as the positive form. We use the positive form when talking about only one thing (I am tall.).
  • Comparative – We use the comparative form when we are comparing two people or things (Mary is taller than me.).
  • Superlative – We save the superlative form for when we compare one of three or more people/things (Tom is the tallest person in the group).

Tip: Even though in theory we should use the superlative only when we are talking about three or more people or things, in practice many people don’t pay attention to this. For example:

  • Put your best foot forward. (We only have two feet, so you technically should use the comparative form of good, which is “better” but almost everyone says “best” instead)
  • I like both of the houses but this one is the cheapest. (We are only talking about two houses but the superlative form of cheap is used.)

And what do all those groups mean? Let me tell you:

  • Group One – This method of comparison is used for most adjectives of one syllable. It is also used for some adjectives that have two or more syllables.
  • Group Two – This is the version you use for the adjectives that don’t fall into group one and that are not irregular.
  • Group Three – This would be all the irregulars.

Tip: We never put more or most before the adjective and add the –er or –est ending at the same time.

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