Comparison of adjectives

Read the following sentences.

  • John is a good singer.
  • Peter is a good singer.
  • Tom is a good singer.

All three of them are good singers. But do they sing equally well? Probably not. How do we compare John’s skills with those of Peter and Tom? Here is where the Degree of Comparison comes to the rescue.

Now read the following sentences.

  • John is a good singer. (Maybe he gets 5 out of 10 marks.)
  • Peter is a better singer. (Maybe he gets 7 out of 10 marks.)
  • Tom is the best singer. (Maybe he gets 9 out of 10 marks.)

You will have noticed that adjectives change in form to show the degree of comparison.

Here good is the form of the adjective in the positive degree. Better is the form of the adjective in the comparative degree and best is the form of the adjective in the superlative degree.

Formation of the comparative and the superlative

Most adjectives of one syllable and some of two form the comparative by adding –er and the superlative by adding –est to the positive.

Examples are given below.

  • Tall (positive): taller (comparative): tallest (superlative)
  • Small: smaller: smallest
  • Clever: cleverer: cleverest
  • Bright: brighter: brightest
  • Poor: poorer: poorest
  • High: higher: highest
  • Strong: stronger: strongest

Most adjectives of more than two syllables form the comparative by adding more before the positive and form the superlative by adding most before the positive.

  • Beautiful (positive): more beautiful (comparative): most beautiful (superlative)
  • Difficult: more difficult: most difficult
  • Important: more important: most important
  • Careful: more careful: most careful
  • Useful: more useful: most useful

There are, nevertheless, exceptions to the above rules. Some adjectives form their comparatives and superlatives irregularly.

  • Bad (positive): worse (comparative): worst (superlative)
  • Good (positive): better (comparative): best (superlative)
  • Evil: worse: worst
  • Ill: worse: worst
  • Much: more: most
  • Well: better: best
  • Little: less: least