COMPARATIVE AND SUPERLATIVE SENTENCES

1 Examples: (comparatives)
Kim is taller than Linda.
They work harder than you.
His house is bigger than hers.
Her great-grandson is nicer than her great-granddaughter.
Tim’s 19 and his brother, 17, so his brother’s younger.
We add -er to one-syllable adjectives and adverbs. If they end in -e, only an -r is added. Note also
that we double the consonant when we have the following combination: consonant + only one
vowel + only one consonant. Than must be left out if the second term of the comparison is not
mentioned.
2 Examples:
This exam was more difficult than the other.
She comes here more often than her husband.
Instead of -er, we use more with adjectives of three or more syllables and with adverbs of two or
more syllables. An exception to this rule is the adverb ‘early’: You should have finished earlier.
3 Examples:
She’s prettier than her mother.
George is cleverer than Norman.
He’s simpler than I thought.
The street was getting narrower.
My job’s more tiring than yours.
Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y change the y to i1 when -er is added. Two-syllable adjectives
ending in -er, -le or -ow can take either -er or more, the former alternative being more usual. In the
second, third and fourth examples above, we could have used more:
George is more clever than Norman.
He’s more simple than I thought.
The street was getting more narrow.
Still, -er is also possible with a few adjectives not ending in -y, -er, -le or -ow: They were
crueller2/more cruel than you. In this case, it is safer to use more.
4 Examples:
She gave me more than you.
We need more help than you.
They want more of these clementines/They want more of these.
More is used alone or with nouns. Of is required before pronouns or nouns preceded by a
determiner.
5 Examples: (superlatives)
He’s the cleverest person/the most clever person in the class.
He’s the thinnest in his family.
She’s the most beautiful girl (that) I know.
She’s the ugliest of the three.
If we use -er in the comparative, we form the superlative by adding -est to the adjective or to the
adverb. If the comparative is made with more, the superlative takes most.
1

Note also the use of the article the. As for the usage of in and of, in is generally found before
words referring to places (and some others, such as in the family, in the team); and of, before
plurals and a few other words or phrases, like the longest day of the year3. Other prepositions
aresometimes required: She’s the most dangerous criminal on earth.
6 Examples:
She’s the best student in the class.
You’re the worst player in the team.
Observe the following irregular forms:
Positive

Comparative

Superlative

bad4, badly5

worse

the worst

far6

further / farther

the furthest / the farthest

good7, well8

better

the best

little

less9

the least

many / much

more

the most

old10

elder

the eldest

7 Examples:
I was as astounded as my wife.
This raincoat isn’t so/as modern as that one.
Is this car as reliable as the other one you have?
As + an adjective or an adverb + as indicates that somebody or something is equal to somebody
or something. In the negative, we use either so or as, as seen above. So is more formal.
8 Examples:
She’s bought as many artichokes as you.
She’s got as much butter as you.
Note that if we have a noun we use: as many + a plural noun + as, or as much + an
uncountable noun + as. In the negative, so can replace the first as:
She hasn’t bought so many artichokes as you.
She hasn’t got so much butter as you.
The noun is sometimes dropped to avoid repetition: I want as many (sweets) as the others. As
much as can also act as an adverb:
He doesn’t like beer as much as I do.
My father earns a lot of money, but I earn twice as much (as he does).
9 Examples:
She’s less deaf than her husband.
She isn’t so/as deaf as her husband.
The above sentences mean the same.
10 Examples: (In this section, you have to finish the sentences as appropriate.)
I do not go out as much as he does11.
I don’t go out as much as him.
She told me more lies than they did.
She told me more lies than them.
2

He is shorter than we are.
He is shorter than us.
In a formal context, we use personal subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, you and they) + a
verb after as or than. In this case, as and than are conjunctions. In an informal style, we can
convert them into prepositions12 by using personal object pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us, you
and them).
11 Examples:
Young Brown is getting taller and taller.
More and more people kept coming to the demostration.
We use the double comparative to indicate that something or someone is growing, decreasing,
changing, etc., continuously.
12 Examples:
The harder you study, the better results at school you’ll have.
The more you earn, the more money you’ll have to buy a house.
The + a comparative ... the + a comparative links two actions: the second one being the result
of the first one.
13 Examples:
It’s a bit more tiring if you do it this way.
I feel a lot happier now than I did yesterday.
He feels much worse today.
A bit, a little (bit), a lot, any13, far, lots, nearly, no, rather, somewhat and (very) much may
modify14 comparative adjectives or adverbs; far and much, more + an uncountable noun; far and
many, more + a plural noun:
There is much/far more wine in the cellar now than (there was) last year.
There are many/far more thieves in this city today than (there were) in the past.
14 Examples:
This bedside table is the cheaper of the two.
This box file is the biggest of the three.
The + a comparative form is preferred to the superlative one when we are dealing with two
people or things. In an informal context, however, the superlative often replaces the comparative:
This night table is the prettiest of the two.
15 Examples:
(The15) same for me, please!
You always meet the same people in the pub.
I like the same boy as my sister.
I love the same boy that my sister does.
He ordered the same as his friend (did).
He bought the same drink (that) she did the previous day.
The same dog that16 attacked me yesterday chased a little girl an hour ago.
The same can be used alone, as in the first and second examples above, or with as, as in the third
and fifth sentences. Note, however, the following structures: the same + a noun (that) + a subject
+ a verb (instances 4 and 6), and the same + a noun + that + a verb (example 7).

3

If the verb is not mentioned that is not possible (sentence 3). Still, instead of that, it is usually
possible to use as: I love the same boy as my sister does, unless that is a relative pronoun (7). We
cannot therefore say The same dog as attacked me yesterday chased a little girl an hour ago.
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However, if the y is preceded by a vowel, the y does not undergo any change: We need a greyer
tone. Two exceptions to this rule are the monosyllabic adjectives ‘wry’ and ‘shy’: wry→wryer and
shy→shyer. The regular forms are possible too (wrier and shier), but are less usual.
2
It is worth mentioning that when an adjective ends in -l, the l is often doubled. See unit 7, part 2.
3
At times, both prepositions are possible: That was the saddest day of/in my life.
4
Bad is an adjective.
5
Badly is an adverb.
6
Farther and the farthest are only used of distances: London is farther/further (away) than
Bristol. Further can mean‘additional’, ‘more’ or ‘extra’: For further information about this
product, phone this number. Further and the furthest may have abstract or figurative senses: His
remarks went even further than Mr Smith’s, but hers went the furthest of the three.
7
Good is an adjective.
8
Well is an adverb. Well is an adjective when it refers to people’s health.
9
Little, less and the least should be used with uncountable nouns; few, fewer and the fewest, with
plural nouns:
The stream carries less water at this time of the year.
I am the person who has the least money.
As it has rained very little over the past few years, there are fewer brooks in the woods.
We are the country which has the fewest people unemployed in the whole world.
Note that we use less and the least with singular nouns:
We would like to buy a less expensive car/We would like to buy a car (which is) less expensive.
This is the least expensive restaurant in the area/This restaurant is the least expensive in the
area.
10
Elder and the eldest are used to refer to members of a family. His elder daughter implies that
he has two daughters; but his eldest daughter, that he has at least three daughters. His elder
brother suggests that he has only one brother who is older than he is; but his eldest brother, that
he has two or more brothers older than he is. Notice as well that elder is not possible with than:
She’s older than his sister. In an informal context, some people use older and oldest instead
of elder and eldest.
11
See unit 10, section 7.
12
This change from a conjunction to a preposition may lead to ambiguity:
She loves him more than me.
She loves him more than I do.
In the second sentence, there is no ambiguity; but, in the first instance, there is, since it could
mean ‘She loves him more than she loves me or She loves him more than I love him’. Strictly
speaking, the first example should mean ‘She loves him more than (she loves) me, because than
should be a conjunction. All the same, in modern English, than is very often used as a preposition,
which is why ambiguity could arise here.
13
See also unit 14, section 26.
14
These words can modify too as well: You’re running much too quickly. For further information
about too, see unit 17.
15
In this case, we can omit the informally.
16
Notice the following as well: This is the same man that/who caught me red-handed.
17
Observe the usage of by far (here), much (exercise g) and far and away (i).
(Miquel Molina i Diez)

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