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What Are Comparative Adjectives?

By Maggie Worth
Updated May 17, 2024
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Adjectives are words that describe a noun. Comparative adjectives are words that compare two nouns. Such comparison can be in terms of appearance, size, quality or any other measurement, either objective or subjective. These parts of speech are most often created by adding the letters "er" to the end of the word, though some words require addition of the word "more" in front of the adjective instead.

English speech and grammar become more descriptive when adjectives are used. For example, the reader receives a clearer picture when an author writes "It was a dark and stormy night" as opposed to "It was night." The words "dark" and "stormy" are adjectives, providing a description of the night and helping to create a mood.

Comparative adjectives might be used to compare a new night to this particular night. For example, the writer might say, "The night was darker and stormier than the one before." To indicate an opposite situation, he might say, "The night was brighter and clearer than the one that came before, but still felt foreboding." Both of these examples include comparative adjectives because they compare one thing to another.

In most cases, comparative adjectives can be created by adding "er" to the end of the adjective. Such is the case with "prettier," "smarter," "bluer" and "higher." Comparatives are not always positive, however. Someone can also be "meaner" or "dirtier."

Some words, however, cannot be turned into comparative adjectives by adding "er." For example, neither "efficienter" nor "naturaler" are English words. In these cases, use of the word "more" before the adjective is the correct way to create the comparative. For example, "Creating an assembly line is usually more efficient than assembling one item at a time."

The occasional odd word, such as "good," follows neither rule. "Gooder" is not a word and "more good" is not correct, either. In this special case, the comparative form of "good" is "better."

Superlative adjectives are those that express the highest state of a comparative, and usually compare three or more objects. For example, "Of Mary, John and Sally, John is the tallest." Superlative adjectives are usually formed by adding "est" to the end of the adjective or adding the word "most" in front of it.

At one time, it was improper to turn certain adjectives into comparatives. The word "perfect," for example, was said to be immune to comparison because perfect either is or isn't. Such rules have, however, been long questioned and largely ignored for decades, except by the strictest of grammar technicians.

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