Comparatives and superlatives in English

Comparatives and Superlatives in English

Comparative and superlative adjectives are used to compare people and things. Comparative adjectives are used to compare two things. Superlative adjectives are used to compare three or more things.

Comparatives and superlatives in English

Forming comparatives and superlatives

There are two basic ways of forming comparatives and superlatives in the English language.

One-syllable and some two-syllable adjectives

In general one-syllable words and some two-syllable words (those ending in consonant + –y and a few others: easier, happiest, narrower, cleverest) take -er, -est endings.

ADJECTIVECOMPARATIVESUPERLATIVE
fastfasterfastest
highhigherhighest
strongstrongerstrongest
happyhappierhappiest

Two syllables and three syllables adjectives

Most long adjectives (most two syllables and three syllables) add more, most before the adjective.

ADJECTIVECOMPARATIVESUPERLATIVE
famousmore famousmost famous
interestingmore interestingmost interesting
popularmore popularmost popular
expensivemore expensivemost expensive

Irregular comparatives and superlatives

There are three adjectives with irregular forms:

goodbetterbest
badworseworst
farfurtherfurthest

The Olympic motto is “faster, higher, stronger”. TV viewers can watch the excitement of downhill skiing, bobsleigh, speed skating and ski jump. Who will be the fastest skier on the slopes? Which country has the strongest ice hockey team? Which team will win the most gold medals and top the medal table?

The French competitor’s ski jump was long.
However the Italian athlete’s distance was longer.
The German’s jump was longest and he won the gold medal.

The Russian ice hockey team is strong and they stand a good chance of a medal.
The USA team is stronger. They beat the Canadians in a recent competition.
The Canadian team is strongest and they should win the gold medal.

The Austrian skier is fast.
The French skier is faster and should win the silver medal this time.
The Swiss skier is fastest by 5 seconds. He is expected to win an Olympic gold medal.

The fastest speed recorded on a bobsleigh track is 125 miles per hour. Germany have a strong bobsleigh team, but experts agree that the United States team is stronger, so they should win the gold medal.

Amy Williams won skeleton gold in Vancouver for Britain with a time of 3 minutes 35 seconds. She was the fastest woman in the competition.

Who will be the fastest female skier on the slopes?

The American skier is quick, but the Austrian competitor is even quicker. She’ll be favourite to win a gold medal.

Which athlete will jump furthest in the ski jump? The longest jump was made by a skier from Norway, who broke the world record.

The Austrian ski jumper is just 17. She is the youngest athlete in the competition.

Use the adjectives in brackets to compare the following:

1 mile/1 kilometer (long)
ex. 1 mile is longer than 1 kilometer.

1. The Eiffel Tower/The Statue of Liberty (tall)
2. The Pacific Ocean/The Atlantic Ocean (deep)
3. London Heathrow Airport/Amsterdam Schiphol Airport/Dublin Airport (busy)

Try this short interactive exercise to practice forming comparatives and superlatives.

Further reading:

Will or be going to? – talking about the future

Prepositions of time: on, in, at

Adjectives ending in ED and ING

Improve your English with Harry - native English teacher