Correct Use of Some Adjectives Part II

Double comparatives and double superlatives

Double comparatives and double superlatives were once common in English, but now they are not used.

It was the most unkindest cut of all. (Shakespeare – Note the use of the double superlative)

The above sentence is incorrect in modern English.

Incorrect: Seldom had the little town seen a more costlier wedding.
Correct: Seldom had the little town seen a costlier wedding.

But lesser which is a double comparative is an exception to this rule.

Choose the lesser of the two evils.

Note also the use of preferable which has the force of a comparative and is followed by to. It is wrong to say more preferable or most preferable.

He has a plan of his own which he finds preferable to that of any other plan. (NOT He has a plan of his own which he finds more preferable than …)

Correct use of less

In informal English it is common to use less before plural nouns. Note that this is considered incorrect in a formal style.

No fewer than 50 children were present. (Formal)
No less than 50 children were present. (Informal)

Perfect adjectives

Certain adjectives do not admit of comparison because their meaning is already superlative. Examples are: perfect, ideal, unique, round, square, complete, extreme and universal. Nothing can be more complete or more perfect. It is therefore wrong to say: most unique, most ideal, or roundest.

But we still say, for instance:
This is the most perfect specimen I have seen.

The phrase two first is a meaningless expression. We should say, ‘the first two’.

The first two chapters of the novel are rather dull.

Verbal and Oral

Verbal means ‘pertaining to words’. Oral means ‘delivered by word of mouth’. The opposite of written is oral, not verbal.

Your written statement differs from your oral (not verbal) statement in several respects.

The photograph will give the reader a far better idea of the structure than any verbal description.

The expression ‘our mutual friend’ is not correct. We should say ‘our common friend’.

They were introduced to each other by a common friend. (NOT … by a mutual friend.)