English Comparative and Superlative


This module explores the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives. The comparative "er" and the use of "more" are discussed.

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When we compare two nouns, we use comparative adjectives.  Depending on the amount of syllables and the letter ending of the adjective, the ending changes accordingly. One-syllable adjectives typically end on “-er”. To one-syllable adjectives that end on “-e”, we only add “-r”. 

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When directly comparing a noun to another noun, we use “than”. When are comparing two nouns, and one of them is implied but not stated in the sentence, we do not use “than”.

My car is nicer than yours/your car.
My car is nicer. (‘than yours‘ is implied.)
His son is taller than mine/my son.
His son is taller. (‘than mine‘ is implied.)

When a one-syllable noun ends on a vowel+consonant, we double the consonant and add “-er”. If the one-syllable ends on a consonant+y, we change the “y” to an “i” and add “-er”.

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If the adjective has two or more syllables, we do not add “-er” to the ending, but we use the word “more”, before the adjective. Note, there are some two-syllable words that do use “-er”.

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I read two books. The second one was more interesting.
It is more likely to rain tomorrow than today.
This engine is more powerful than the previous one.

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The Superlative

If we compare three or more objects, we use the comparative and the superlative. The superlative is used for the entity or the object that is the most of its quality in the group of objects we are comparing. To form a superlative, one-syllable adjective, we use “the + est”, following the same spelling principles as the comparative (y -> i, consonant doubles)

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His car may be the fastest, but mine is the prettiest.
This is the biggest dog I have ever seen. (of all the dogs I have seen)
The new skyscraper is the tallest skyscraper in the world. (of all the skyscrapers)

To form multi-syllable superlative adjectives, we use “the most” + the adjective in its base form.

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I have seen several interesting movies this past week, but the documentary was the most interesting.
This is the most powerful aircraft ever built.
She had the most interesting story to tell her friend.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.